Industry: Fruit and Vegetables (NAICS 3114)
Process Brief: Cans are washed prior to filling with fruits and vegetables
Energy source: Steam/natural gas
Energy Intensity: 20-50 Btu/lb of product
Can washers clean the containers after they are received from the manufacturer and before they are filled with product. Can washers are large, continuous washers than generally can be easily configured for a range of can sizes. Throughput rates are measured in the hundreds or thousands of cans per hour and production is synchronized with can filling operations.
Thinking about food contamination and responding appropriately to ensure safe food is a crucial part of food processing operations. Containers are a convenient and attractive means of packaging products; they also protect food from environmental influences and damage during distribution. Rigid and semi-rigid containers made of a wide variety of materials are filled with product and securely closed. In some cases, the heated food product is used to sterilize the container and closure after filling, or a post-fill sterilization process is implemented, such as a hot-water bath or pressure cook. Before filling, however, the container should be cleaned to remove soil, foreign objects, and chemical contaminants.
Container cleaning and inspection is an important step in food packaging operations. According to current Good Manufacturing Practices (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Parts 100, 110, and 113), containers must be clean. Many small- and medium-scale food processors regard container cleaning as an unnecessary step since containers are received in a clean condition and are handled and inspected individually before, during, and after filling. Cracked, damaged, soiled, contaminated or otherwise unsuitable containers are manually removed from the filling operation. However, as automation and the volume of processing increases, it becomes difficult to rely only on visual inspection.
The process of cleaning food containers, even when they are new, is indispensable to ensure a safe product. Empty food containers can harbor foreign materials such as insects and pieces of glass or plastic. Sterilizing food containers (for example, by irradiation) without cleaning them eliminates biological hazards but may leave physical and chemical hazards in the container that affect the safety of the food product. When consumers discover foreign materials in a product, the results may include a loss of confidence in the manufacturer, sales reductions, product recalls, and lawsuits. Therefore, a system to clean containers and improve the safety of food products should be established.
VMI AMERICAS INC.
4485 Allen Road
Stow, Ohio 44224
Web site: www.vmi-group.com