CSIRO working hard on African swine flu

African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal pig disease. And it’s on Australia’s doorstep with confirmation of outbreaks in Timor-Leste, 680 kilometres from northern Australia.

The disease is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has been detected in countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. This year we have seen the disease sweep down through Asia and towards Australia.

ASF kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects and there is no vaccine or cure. Some estimate a quarter of the world’s pigs will be dead by the end of this year from ASF.

The consequences cannot be understated as pork and other red meat prices are already seeing an increase in Europe and Asia. There is also talk of a global protein shortage for 2020 as a result of ASF.

READ MORE: Western Meat Packer appoint new Australian sales manager

Australia, which has a $5.3 billion pork industry and 2700 producers, continues to be free from the disease. The CSIRO is working with the Australian government and industry to keep it that way.

ASF on our doorstep
The Department of Agriculture has implemented tight biosecurity measures. This maintains strict controls over imported products, which could be contaminated with the ASF virus. It also has heightened surveillance and increased screening for banned pork products.

Recently, Australia deported a Vietnamese tourist after border officials found 10 kilograms of banned food products in her luggage. This included a large amount of raw pork. She was the first tourist to have her visa cancelled and be expelled from the country over breached biosecurity laws.

In September 2019, researchers at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) tested pork products, seized at international airports and at international mail processing centres, for ASF virus. AAHL is Australia’s leading high-containment laboratory for exotic and emerging animal diseases. It has unique facilities and expertise to manage the biosecurity risks of testing samples for the virus.

The results from AAHL’s testing last month showed 48 per cent of seized products were contaminated with ASF virus fragments. This is an increase from 15 per cent in the testing AAHL undertook earlier this year.

Detection of these virus fragments does not necessarily mean they can cause infection. But it does highlight the need for Australia’s strict biosecurity measures. Authorities are now using these results to refine and strengthen Australia’s border measures.

ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly
ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly among domestic pigs and wild boars through direct contact or exposure to contaminated feed and water. For instance, farmers can unwittingly carry the virus on their shoes, clothing, vehicles, and machinery. It can survive in fresh and processed pork products. It is even resistant to some disinfectants.

With no vaccine available, controlling the spread of the virus can be difficult. This is especially so in countries dominated by small-scale farmers who may lack the necessary resources and expertise to protect their herds.

For example, swill feeding—giving pigs kitchen and table waste in which the virus can persist—is a common practice throughout Asia. This is a major factor contributing to the spread of ASF. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to enforce a ban on this practice. Especially across so many small holder farms in resource-poor countries affected by the disease.

But, action is being taken.

Australia’s domestic biosecurity network
many Australian agencies are  working together to manage surveillance and monitoring as the risk of ASF entering Australia is on the rise.

In addition to testing, these agencies continue to strengthen our national biosecurity network. The CSIRO is working with quarantine services, agriculture and human health organisations to build awareness, assessment, resilience, preparedness and response.

Our researchers are working on understanding how ASF infects pigs as well as looking at novel approaches to producing a vaccine. With no vaccine currently available, outbreaks of ASF are difficult and costly to contain and eradicate.

In the policy space, a round table meeting at Parliament House was recently held. Along with other leaders, scientists and governments, the CSIRO shared the work currently being undertaken and the actions needed to keep ASF out of Australia.

Plans are underway for a simulation exercise later this year. This will test Australia’s disease response capabilities to make sure the country is as prepared as it can be.

Helping our international neighbours
AAHL has an important role to play in the Asia-Pacific region. Its international team work with partner agencies and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide expertise, training and laboratory skills to rapidly identify disease.

This support enhances the region’s capacity to manage emergency disease outbreaks. It also assists Australia’s pre-border security through better threat assessment and management of viruses circulating in neighbouring countries.

It also provides regional expertise to the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (a specialised agency of the United Nations) for emergency preparedness missions to the number of countries at risk of virus.

We can all help
Fortunately, Australia’s pig industry is better equipped to manage the necessary biosecurity measures. And producers are willing to put strict controls in place to keep the disease at bay. Hobby farmers must also be careful to follow the rules.

Nobody wants to see images of dying pigs and farmers struggling to make ends meet on our screens. Everybody can play a role in good biosecurity.

Be aware of the risks and, most importantly, please don’t import illegal meat products or feed pigs with food scraps.

The four steps of food safety systems

Who hasn’t felt nervous before an audit? There is so much pressure today on food safety professionals to accomplish successfully audits, especially when we have a big client requiring it or a certification body doing it. Most of us neglect the fact that audits should be perceived as one (more) powerful tool in the continuous improvement of our food safety system.

Audits
What is an audit? Probably one of the most common and used audit definition is the one provided by the ISO 19011 – Guidelines for auditing management systems. In its last update (2018) the ISO document defines audit as systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining objective evidence and evaluate it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.

In this definition, ISO decided to reinforce the importance of the evidence being objective since the only change from the 2011 definition was the substitution of audit evidence for objective evidence. More details can be found in the GFSI definition for audit present in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements version 7.2: A systematic and functionally independent examination to determine whether activities and related results comply with a conforming scheme, whereby all the elements of this scheme should be covered by reviewing the supplier’s manual and related procedures, together with an evaluation of the production facilities. Clearly, in common, we have that audits should be a systematic and independent process to determine compliance with criteria.

As a systematic process, auditing has two main roles:
1. Validating that the food safety systems are thought and built to fulfil the criteria
2. Verifying that the activities performed to comply with what is planned and are effective.
If we think in simple terms, we can divide a food safety system into four steps. First, we have to research what should be done (based on what the organisation does, the law, criteria or elements of the conforming scheme or system). Then say what you do. That is, we should have defined what is planned to do to fulfil the criteria. But this is not enough. More important even is to do as you say. In daily work, people in the organisation should execute their functions and tasks accordingly with what is established. Finally, we must have evidence to be sure we can always reply affirmatively to the question: is it done as said? During an audit, the auditor should validate that what you say you do is enough, go to the field and verify not only that things are done as said but also look for evidence that was done as said.
The Auditor

As presented above, during an audit the auditor must be able to validate and verify compliance with criteria or requirements. For that, the auditor must have adequate attributes and knowledge. In the diagram below are presented the main elements of an auditor and an audit.

If audits are to be used as a tool to improve the food safety system it must be performed independently and free from bias or conflict of interest, should be systematic and well documented. Although sometimes it may look like that anyone can be an auditor, that is not the case, at least, for food safety audits. The first two essential elements in an auditor, personal characteristics and skills are related to the person and not specific to food safety. Typically, an auditor should have ethical behaviour, be an organised and observant person (even curious) and have an emphatic and diplomatic approach. The auditor will also benefit from having skills related to how to question or interview people, how to conduct a systematic audit, how to prepare an audit report and active listening, among others. On top of the pyramid is, of course, the knowledge of food safety and the industry. It is paramount that auditors know the law and requirements or criteria that apply to the organisation and its product line they are auditing. Education, training and experience in the field they are auditing is also a basic requirement but is also essential for how much the organisation may benefit from the audit.
The Future of Audits
Assessing and harmonising an auditor’s knowledge and skills is certainly an important goal for the future. This is important not only to establish a minimal baseline of competencies for auditors but also to establish credibility for the profession and the process. The recent release by GFSI knowledge exam is a step in that direction, offering a consistent method to assess auditor knowledge across a range of relevant skills for all GFSI-recognised programmes. Auditors seeking to audit GFSI-recognised certification programs will find questions about specific technical skills well as standard audit skills.

Another aspect that needs to be improved is the perception of value added by food safety audits. Auditors should do everything in their power (without compromising the independent, systematic and documented approach) to make the process beneficial to the organisation and their food safety system.

Technology is evolving at an outstanding pace but for the moment the adaptation of new tools and technologies to auditing seems delayed. It is not difficult to foresee that technologies like smart glasses can play a role in the future of audits. Mainly people advocate that this tool could reduce travel costs but maybe we should focus more on how this technology could increase the number of audits for the same cost.

Safe flooring for dairy factories

According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, the country’s dairy industry accounted for $4.4 billion of Australia’s gross value of agricultural production and around seven per cent of the country’s export income. It has a reputation for producing good quality products that are in huge demand around the world.

In order to keep this reputation intact, the factories where food and beverages are produced have to adopt clean and safe working environments. Not only for the sake of the products themselves, but for the workers, too.

A key area of any factory is its floor space. The ever-demanding world of cheese and dairy manufacturing offer tough conditions for flooring in most facilities that produce and process the products. Typically, with the producers of milk and milk ingredients such as cheese, ice cream, butter, cream and yogurt, face a common challenge with concrete corrosion, as well as dangerous, damp and wet conditions, which are compounded by heavy impact traffic.

READ MORE: The right brew for beverage and distillery flooring

Dairy processing floors are exposed to aggressive acids and alkaline chemical cleaners, including Clean in Place (CIP) chemicals. Heavy-duty, epoxy-trowelled flooring from a company such as Roxset Health and Safety Floor Coatings handles a range of corrosive acids. This includes nitric and phosphoric acid typically found in processing and chemical storage areas. Milk and other ingredients break down on the floor, forming acidic by-products that can also damage the concrete. It is critical that companies protect their concrete from oils and chemical deterioration, while handling impact, abrasion and thermal cycling.

There are strict regulations in the dairy industry, which are required in order to meet Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSC) Standard 4.2.4. This is a primary standard that dairy farms must adhere to and follow assiduously. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Standard 3.2.2 – Food Safety Practices and General Requirements states: “Floors must be designed and constructed in a way that is appropriate for the activities conducted on the food premises”.

When the facility gets wet, which is common in dairy production, it can lead to serious slip issues. This can escalate into expensive lawsuits if care and caution are not taken. It is critical that an anti-slip HACCP complaint aggregate is built into the full thickness of the floor. The profile of this would typically be between 6-10mm for maximum protection. Drains are important in tackling slip hazards where is it important to contour the falls with the correct anti-slip aggregates. It is these types of considerations that Roxset looks into when laying down epoxy flooring at factories that specialise in dairy products.

A dairy facility floor is also challenged by extremes, like cold conditions in the coolers and warm conditions in the processing raw milk and intake side.

This is where a potential for thermal shock and thermal cycling in the floor can occur leading to damage. A heavy-duty non-toxic HACCP epoxy coating from a company like Roxset will be sensitive to any shock. However, it can also handle very hot wash downs, which are also needed in order to keep a factory in excellent condition.

Australian scientist awarded fellowship for work in biotech solutions for food security

The CSIRO’s ON and the Menzies Foundation named three of Australia’s most innovative scientists as recipients of the 2019 Menzies Science Entrepreneurship Fellowship.

Established to support the nation’s most talented science entrepreneurs in the early stages of commercialisation, the Fellowship awards recipients with $90,000 to fully dedicate themselves towards their new venture and focus on making their enterprise goals a commercial reality. The recipients of the 2019 Menzies Science Entrepreneurship Fellowships are:

  • Dr Melony Sellars, a global shrimp expert and co-founder of Genics, a startup securing global food production through smart pathogen detection and breeding selection. Melony and her team are working on solving real-world problems through developing and applying novel biotech solutions to revolutionise today’s farming practices to deliver global food security for the future. The company is currently conducting trials around the world.
  • Dr Simon Gross, a leading optics and telecommunications expert and CTO of Modular Photonics. This startup manufactures a series of glass chip micro devices that significantly increases data transmission rates. Simon and his team’s award-winning technology offers solutions for upgrading and future-proofing legacy multimode fibre networks.
  • Dr Jinghua Fang, a materials scientist and founder of AloxiTec. Forty-five per cent of fresh produce is wasted every year, resulting in a significant cost across the value chain, especially in Australia’s export market. AloxiTec is hoping to reduce this wastage, creating specialised packaging to extend shelf life and improve the freshness of fresh produce without refrigeration and chemical contamination.

“At ON, we believe that every sector of society – from philanthropy to academia and government – has a crucial role to play in supporting science, research and innovation in Australia. This Fellowship program is an example of our deep commitment to unearthing research in science and steering it towards commercialisation. Each recipient was chosen based on their entrepreneurial capacity and the immense potential of their ideas.  I look forward to following the journey of these incredible scientists as they shape the future for Australia and the world,” said CSIRO ON Program executive manager David Burt.

READ MORE: Recalls on the rise: five signs of a lagging food safety culture

Menzies Foundation believes philanthropy can play a unique role in sparking discovery and innovation in Australia. We are passionate about investing in our country’s future science leaders and giving them the runway to ensure that their research has an impact in the world.  We look forward to sharing their entrepreneurial journey,” Menzies Foundation CEO Liz Gillies said.

2019 ON Impact Awards winners announced
CSIRO’s ON has also announced the winners of this year’s Impact Awards. The inaugural awards celebrate the diversity of the program’s alumni and recognise the value they create for Australia and the world through their innovations.

This year’s winners include: Emesent, which have created autonomy technology for industrial drones; Genics, a new pest detection system that cuts costs and time delays for Aussie prawn farmers; and Diffuse Energy which have developed new tech that is pioneering small-scale wind generation.

The full list of categories and winners:

  • Social Innovation: RapidAIM (award sponsored by Hitachi) – real-time information of insect pest detection in your orchards & farms
  • Future Industries: Bee Innovation (award sponsored by Austrade) – a radar-like sensor for bees which is able to identify, track and report bee pollination activity across the orchard and field in near real-time
  • Securing our Future: Genics (award sponsored by AusIndustry) – securing global food production through smart pathogen detection and breeding selection in prawns
  • Jobs & Growth: Emesent (award sponsored by Curious Thing) – drones that use Hovermap technology to automate the collection and analysis of critical data in challenging underground environments
  • Health & Wellbeing: Noisy Guts (award sponsored by McR) – acoustic belt that records gut noises over time so doctors can accurately screen and diagnose gut disorders
  • Sustainable energy & Resources: Diffuse Energy (award sponsored by Singularity University) – renewable technologies that will enable a shift to a more self-sufficient energy model for anyone wanting energy equality
  • People’s Choice: Silentium Defence — passive radar technology that will allow Defence Forces to maintain their situational awareness without advertising their presence

 

 

Does plastic get a bad rap?

Director of sustainability is an unusual title, one that is not common within a multi-national company. But not only is that Alan Adams’ role for plastic packaging specialist Sealed Air, he is also part of the leadership group for the company’s APAC region.

At a recent conference at FoodTech Queensland, the education director of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), Pierre Pienaar, made the point that, “plastics are not going anywhere’. And he is right. The thin, mainly oil-based product has a multitude of uses in many industries including food.

“Plastic is, and will remain, in my view, really important within the industry,” said Adams. “In fact, it is probably more important than ever when it comes to reducing food waste, and enabling our lifestyle. What we have to do though, is drive it to a circular economy so we can utilise those resources.”

With China and other Southeast Asian countries declining to take Australia’s recyclables, sustainability is more important than ever. However, it is something that Sealed Air saw coming over six years ago. The then recently appointed (but now retired) CEO of Sealed Air, Jerome Peribere, knew sustainability was going to be an issue, and one that needed addressing sooner rather than later.

READ MORE: Plastic waste: why every gram counts

“Jerome came out with this idea that we should think about ourselves as a sustainability company,” said Adams. “That was controversial and confronting when you think we are predominantly a plastics manufacturer, so it didn’t necessarily resonate with the average person back then.

“However, his reasoning was sound because if you look holistically at our impact on the world, we have a positive impact on the environment. If you think what Jerome was thinking back then, it led to us redefining our vision and mission. Our vision became to create a better way of life and today this continues with our CEO Ted Doheny and our purpose statement that, ‘We are in business to solve critical packaging challenges and leave our world better than we found it’. And it is through enabling efficient supply chains for food and goods without damage, that we remove a lot of the wastage that can be created in many industries including food.”

These company ideas backed up the sustainability minded Adams’ thoughts on what the future would hold. Adams was already a member of the Bioplastics Association for Australasia and served as president for four years. The association introduced standards for compostable and home compostable packaging for Australia during that time. Adams not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.

“I have a personal zero food waste policy at home,” he said. “It makes for some interesting food, and it has gotten easier to make it zero since I started composting. But we had herb salads from time to time, and it’s questionable how nice they are. Plus we grow a lot more food of our own now.”

Adams believes that there is a disconnect between people’s perceptions of plastic and how it can also be a sustainable product. But that is because there are a couple of issues that need addressing. The main one being that the Australian recycling industry is still immature.

“The problem is we don’t have great infrastructure and sustainable recycling industry developed yet,” he said. “If you talk about what plastics are recovered and recycled in Australia – and turned into something useful, and not landfilled or shipped overseas – you are talking about 4.6 per cent of rigids and 1.2 per cent of flexibles. It is tiny.”

How can such a perception of plastics be changed? Adams believes it will take a change in mind-set. Too often, there is a myopic view, which is not telling the real story.

“Any supply chain, or any product has three big buckets,” he said. “First is inbound resources. What are the products made from? How are they made? How efficient is that? Then you have operational efficiency. Does it do the job? How well does it do the job? Does it deliver performance? Then you have end of life. What happens to it after it has been used? Equating sustainability just to the end of life is really missing most of the picture.”

This is why he thinks Australia needs a mature recycling/circular system in place. What has also changed is how much people now rely on plastics in everyday life, especially when it comes to the food industry. Adams grew up on a farm in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand. The lie of the land was a lot different back when it came to food waste. He remembers having a shepherd’s pie on most Monday nights because it was a left-over from the Sunday roast from the day before. People rarely eat like that these days, he said. It’s all about lifestyle, too.

“We had very low food waste back then,” he said. “Can we wind back the clock 30 or 40 years ago and live that way? No we can’t. People will not stand for it. We want to have the eating experience we want but also be able to recover those resources at end of life. Otherwise, you are asking us to unwind the lifestyle we really want, and that generally ends with quite a big consumer backlash.”

How does a company like Sealed Air develop sustainability around a product that is continually under the microscope? For a start, it develops packaging solutions that can help products last longer on the shelf, such as its Cryovac brand food packaging range. If product can last longer on the shelf, then there is less chance of it being thrown out before it is eaten. Adams also realises that the way people consume food is changing.

“We have to be creative in our solutions and the recovery of the materials we generate – and plastics is a big part of it – to enable us to efficiently have the food where we want it, when we want it and the size and quantity we want,” he said.

But do people want to eat food that is staying on the shelf longer. Hasn’t the public been told again and again, that fresh is best? Sure, said Adams, but not all foods. Back in the day, a butcher would cut the customer a piece of meat, wrap it in paper and it would be taken home to be eaten. However, new packaging technologies not only mean the aforementioned longer shelf life, but it can “fool” the meat into thinking it is still relatively fresh.

“The meat is dead when you have carved it and served it up and exposed it to the atmosphere,” said Adams. “It was as good as it was going to get at that moment. From then on, it is going to degrade. If, however, you vacuum pack it, the meat still thinks it is the bigger part of the piece of meat it used to be. Because oxygen is not getting to it, atmosphere is not getting to it so, it continues to age and continues enzymatic action.

“There are case studies that will show you that the eating experience of vacuum-packaged meat with a longer shelf life is better than MAP packaged meat. Certain cheeses like to be aged, too. In the past it has been wax coatings and wax papers and things that helped keep longer shelf life. So there are efficiencies in a lot of this as well as potentially eating experiences. It isn’t like that with all foods. I’m not sure vacuum-packing apples will make for a good experience a few weeks down the track.”

Adams knows that there is a long way to go, especially in the recycling stakes. Even though there are challenges, he knows Sealed Air is on the right track when it comes to sustainability – it is what drives him every day. “I think what is really important is that Sealed Air clearly understands – and many people don’t see this – that sustainability is everything. It’s an umbrella over everything we do,” he said. “If you look at our core values and drivers – which are about food safety and shelf-life along with operational efficiency, package optimisation and brand experience – all of those things are sustainability endeavours in their own right. But I am very aligned with it, which means I love my job and I’m very happy working towards those goals.”

Improving oversight of live animal exports

An independent inspector-general of Live Animal Exports to oversee regulation of the industry is a step closer today with the Bill to establish the position as a statutory appointment passing the Senate.

Agriculture Minister, Bridget McKenzie, said the community deserved greater assurance that animal welfare outcomes for export livestock were being met and monitored.

“Australia’s livestock export industry is an important contributor to our rural and regional communities and to our national economy valued at $1.7 billion and supporting thousands of jobs,” Minister McKenzie said.

“It’s a legitimate trade, however, it won’t be conducted at the expense of animal welfare standards.

READ MORE: Minister moves on sheep exports

“This legislation is concrete proof of this government’s continued commitment to improving the trade—making sure the trade is well regulated and above board.

“Support for the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019 means there’ll be an entrenched independent check on the Department of Agriculture’s application of the regulations and its exercise of power.

“Our livestock export system is already world class and the Inspector-General will only enhance that. I am confident that the Bill will pass the House of Representatives and become law.

“Once it does I will appoint a suitably qualified person to make sure the system is operating as it should—driving positive change in the industry, improving regulator performance and providing greater confidence to the general community about livestock exports.”

How to make money from your wastewater

We often hear about innovation in the food industry as it relates to core business. Whether innovation is thought of as new product development, packaging design, or adoption of concepts like automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) or even blockchain, it is easy to focus on the glamorous, as opposed to the pragmatic aspects of future business.

Wastewater ranks among the most important sustainability challenges facing our agri-food system. As populations increase, product demand grows, as does the need for effective wastewater solutions. In the hope that ground water salination and ocean acidification won’t be our leading legacy, innovators are working to transform wastewater from a hazard into a profit-generating asset that works with the environment.

Industry is now entering an era where wastewater is seen as an asset of a mature sustainable business. It’s time for wastewater to contribute to the bottom line. Project delivery company, Wiley, has explored how to stop money from going down the drain and to make money off wastewater.

An example of next-generation wastewater treatment comes from the Norwegian company BioWater Technology. Its unique biofilm carrier blocks are designed to grow micro-organisms that efficiently absorb pollutants from the water. This process has proven effective in treating biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), a characteristic of food wastewater, which makes it harmful to the ecosystem.

Key to BioWater’s success is the ability to work with food processors. With outflows varying in richness, volume and temperature, it is easy to kill or overwhelm bio-wastewater processing organisms. BioWater can keep up with this fluctuating input and delivers excellent water processing outcomes in a cost-effective and energy-efficient way.
BioWater’s approach is a good solution for removing pollutants, however, it doesn’t transform wastewater into a revenue-generating asset.

To produce revenue from wastewater, algae is the food industry’s secret weapon. Algae has been used in two distinct ways in the management of waste. First, algae can be grown off the nutrients in wastewater, producing high-value bioproducts as the nutrients are extracted, cleaning the water. Second, algae can sequester carbon from the exhaust of coal and gas boilers, directly reducing the emissions of energy generation, while producing the same high-value bioproducts.

The opportunity for the food industry is that food processors bring together both a nutrient-rich wastewater stream and CO2 rich smoke. With these two resources at hand, it is possible to provide everything an algae culture needs, giving a unique edge to the food industry in profitable waste management.

If successful, this concept means food processors may cease to pay for wastewater treatment and will instead profit from their nutrient-rich waste stream by selling valuable bio-products. As a bonus, this will slash their direct CO2 emissions.

This kind of cooperation with biology is indicative of how industrial waste could be processed in future. The algae-based value generation concept is effective because it works with the organism, providing everything it needs through combining multiple waste streams. In this way, a small but complete ecosystem can be created, developing untapped value and transforming the food system from – an impost, to a constructive piece of the sustainability puzzle.

These ideas are still at the early stage, but conceptually speaking, it is certainly possible to grow algae and produce bioproducts directly from industrial waste streams. The economics of these solutions may take some time to develop but investment continues to flow into these areas and more solutions will begin to surface. As innovative companies enter the market, one thing is certain – profiting from waste streams will be too compelling for the market to ignore making this approach part of the future of responsible food businesses.

Xplanar streamlines drive systems for the modern era

The ground-breaking XPlanar system from Beckhoff offers boundless potential for streamlining production machines and plant design. It utilises planar movers that float freely over floors of planar tiles that can be arranged in any kind of pattern.

What characterises the new XPlanar drive system is that it is based on the principle of flying motion. Like the XTS linear transport system, XPlanar is much more than just a drive system – it’s a solution designed to make product transport flexible. Compared to XTS, XPlanar adds movement in a second dimension and allows the movers floating over floor tiles to overtake one another and to be held in buffer zones or to bypass them. The free-floating planar movers also have a further important advantage – because of the contactless drive principle, they are silent and completely wear-free.

So, what kind of functionality does this system provide for implementing transport tasks?
“Basically, a transport system simply moves products from one processing station to the next – from A to B, then from B to C, from C to D, and so on,” said Prüßmeier. “With XPlanar, these stations need neither to be in a linear arrangement, nor visited in a fixed sequence.

This means that a given product need only travel to those stations that are essential for processing it. By incorporating the second dimension, XPlanar opens up several other options, too, including the ability to discharge individual movers from the production flow, or to create special waiting zones in order to optimise processing sequences. Enabling faster movers to overtake slower movers is also important, as it allows sub-processes to be executed swiftly, in parallel. Not only is each planar mover controlled individually, as a single servo axis, it can also be synchronised precisely with other movers if necessary.”

The movers can also travel with six degrees of freedom. They not only travel to processing stations, they can also move into them. They can turn, rotating the payload they are carrying through all three axes so that it can be processed or inspected easily from any side. The movers can also be raised or lowered slightly and even tilted. For example, a little tilt can be useful to prevent spills when accelerating quickly while carrying a container full of liquid.

In spite of all the complex motion options that XPlanar supports, the system is simple to set up and deploy from a user standpoint.

“Right at the start of the development process, we decided it was important that the system should be highly integrated and that users would only have to plug in two cables – one for data communication over EtherCAT G and another for power supply,” said Prüßmeier. “As a result, all other functionality has been fully incorporated into the modules. Design-wise, they are also extremely compact – the distance between the working surface of each planar tile and the carrier frame beneath it is just 4cm.”

The system builds on one basic component – a planar tile measuring 24 x 24cm. The tiles can be arranged in any floor or track layout. In addition to this standard tile, there will be another version in the future, identical in shape and size, over which planar movers can rotate through a full 360 degrees – that is to say, infinitely. The movers available differ only in terms of their size and their load-carrying capacity. They currently range from 95mm x 95mm for payloads up to 0.4kg, through to 275mm x 275mm, for a maximum payload of 6kg.

The TwinCAT software also plays a key part in the system’s ease of use.

“Our main objective is to make sure that users find the planar motor system easy to manage,” said Prüßmeier. “In TwinCAT, the planar movers appear as simple servo axes, capable, in principle, of supporting all six degrees of freedom. However, given that the degree of flexibility available with six axes is not always needed from a practical perspective – or, at least, not throughout the XPlanar system – TwinCAT provides a way to reduce this complexity. It does this by representing each mover as a one-dimensional axis capable of optional additional movements in other dimensions – lifting, tilting and turning, for instance – that are available when it reaches a processing station. This means it’s enough, initially, to just set the desired route, or track, across the XPlanar floor. This simplifies operation significantly.”

And how important is TwinCAT Track Management when implementing complex motion sequences?

A key factor in XPlanar’s flexibility is that its ability to transport products is not confined to the aforementioned single tracks, according to Prüßmeier. Users can define additional tracks, and movers can switch between them. To keep things simple for users, even when operating multiple tracks, TwinCAT offers Track Management, a user-friendly tool designed to support complex motion sequences, including the ability to overtake slower movers on the same track, or to accumulate movers in waiting zones. To do this, it allows users to define parallel lanes, bypasses, or tracks to other plant areas on the XPlanar floor.

Track Management allows movers to switch smoothly from one track to another via a short parallel segment. All this takes is a “switch track” command, without users having to deal with the specifics of merging in and out of the flow, or avoiding collisions. Movers can also be positioned with freedom, without having to follow any preset tracks. Using Track Management, they are sent to specific coordinates within the defined XPlanar floor space – again, without any risk of colliding with other movers.

According to Prüßmeier, there are plenty of advantages for the users for building a XPlanar floor from individual tiles.

“Here, too, we put flexibility front and centre,” he said. “The tiles can be arranged in any shape – and even wall- or ceiling-mounted – so the XPlanar system can be configured to perfectly suit a given application’s requirements. For instance, you can leave gaps within the tiled floor to accommodate processing stations, or lay tracks around plant components. This means users can set up a transport system in a cost-optimised fashion and, at the same time, reduce machine size to a minimum. In addition, it’s easy to modify the planar motor system subsequently just by adding more tiles when necessary, that is, to accommodate new processing stations or gain extra space to optimise motion through curves.”

And how can users best exploit this innovation’s potential? According to Prüßmeier, XPlanar opens up new avenues in machine and system design. Users need, literally, to experience the system’s new possibilities hands-on in order to grasp them, so at market launch Beckhoff is offering easy-to-use starter kits, just as it did with XTS.

“These consist of 6 or 12 planar tiles installed on a carrier frame, along with 4 movers and a small control cabinet with an industrial PC, complete with preinstalled software, and the requisite electrical components,” said Prüßmeier. “This offers machine builders an ideal basic kit on which to trial XPlanar in their own environments and then go on to use later in real-life applications. In addition, offering this kind of preconfigured system makes it a lot easier for the Beckhoff support staff to answer any questions that might arise.

Prüßmeier also said that there are almost no limits on using it with production plants and machines. The only requirement is that a product’s weight and volume are within the limits of what the planar movers can carry. Where this applies, users can benefit from all the system’s flexible positioning capabilities. These are particularly interesting in sectors with special requirements in terms of hygiene and cleanability, zero emissions, or low noise.

This is the case in the food and pharmaceuticals industry, as well as in laboratory environments or processes that require a vacuum (in semiconductor production, for instance). The latter two sectors in particular can benefit from the fact that products are carried on floating movers, abrasion- and contamination-free. Depending on the needs of a given application, users can also apply plastic, stainless-steel foil or glass plates to the XPlanar surfaces to make them easy to clean without residue.

XPlanar was first exhibited at the SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg in November 2018, with the product attracting interest among visitors.

“It also spawned lots of ideas for possible applications, because many users have been looking for a flexible solution to solve specific transport problems in their production facilities for years now,” said Prüßmeier.

He gives an example from food processing.

“In the production of high-quality confectionery, there are always minor deviations in the colour of chocolate coatings,” he said. “This is not a problem as such, provided there’s no variance within individual boxes of chocolates. However, at a production rate of 100 chocolates per minute, selecting 10 individual chocolates with the same colour for each pack is difficult using conventional means. It would require using several pick-and-place robots to check and sort all the chocolates, which would be costly in terms of time, floor space and throughput rate. The problem can be solved much more efficiently using individually controlled planar movers operating on a single floor. Movers transporting individual chocolates could easily sort themselves at the end of the production line according to the chocolates’ particular shade of colour. Or, if movers were designed to carry an entire box at once, each mover could automatically travel to the system ejection point for the appropriate colour of chocolate to pick up the products. Both of these approaches could be implemented much faster and, importantly, with lower space requirements than, for example, the robot solution I mentioned.”

Beckhoff has already received specific inquiries from the laboratory automation sector, where there’s interest in maximising the flexibility of analyses. For the most part, samples are tested for the same substance content, but less common analyses also need to be carried out for the purpose of individualised diagnostics.

Even with mass analysis methods, XPlanar offers a way to extract individual samples; it also creates additional quality assurance advantages by making it easy to discharge or exchange particular samples. There’s similar demand in the cosmetics industry, too. For example, in one particular case, fragrances need to be filled into selectable, customer-specific bottles that are individually labelled and packaged.

“The main difference is that the XPlanar movers don’t need a mechanical guide rail, so the system offers greater flexibility in terms of movement,” said Prüßmeier. “At the same time, though, the mechanical guidance in XTS can be an advantage. Compared to the magnetic counterforce of the planar movers, a guide rail allows better dynamics and higher speeds in curves, especially in very tight curves, and even when carrying a payload. The specifics of a given application will ultimately determine which of the two systems is the better option. The bottom line is that XPlanar and XTS complement each other perfectly.”

Flowmeter helps with quick media changeover

Food safety and hygiene were in the news in June this year when eight brands of milk were recalled in Victoria and New South Wales amid fears that they had been contaminated by cleaning fluid.

Production plants need to be cleaned regularly when changing over batches or products. However, at the same time, the production process should be carried out as efficiently as possible.

The FLOWave flowmeter from Bürkert Fluid Control Systems offers extended functions, including the fast and precise detection of media changeovers. As a result, production steps can be clearly separated from each other and waste can be reduced without negatively impacting on hygiene.

The FLOWave flowmeter enables the precise detection of changeovers between different liquid types during food production. Especially in rinsing processes, rapid differentiation between product and rinsing water, or chemicals used in the CIP cleaning processes, ensures efficient process control and a high level of quality.

The device thus continuously measures the temperature-independent density factor. Based on this measured value, valuable products such as milk can be quickly and reliably differentiated from the cleaning liquid. Compared to conventional time-controlled processes, product waste can be minimised and costs saved. In addition, the amount of waste water treatment required is reduced as less product enters the waste water.
The flowmeter works according to the SAW method (Surface Acoustic Waves). This patented technology can also be used to measure the transition between beer or pre-mixed alcoholic beverages and water. FLOWave utilises the propagation speed of the surface acoustic waves in the liquid for this purpose. The speed increases with the addition of alcohol and sugar. This also leads to an increase in the density factor of the liquid compared to water. However, the actual density of the liquid hardly changes depending on the alcohol and sugar content, since sugar increases the density while alcohol reduces it.

The transition between beer or pre-mixed alcoholic beverages and water is therefore often very difficult to measure with conventional density meters.

The density factor not only indicates the media changeover between product and water, it also differentiates between liquids with varying contents of sugar. The SAW technology allows additional data to be obtained from the medium. In addition to the temperature, the flowmeter automatically detects possible gas bubbles and outputs the values in percentage terms. Possible process faults can thus be eliminated quickly and effectively.
SAW technology does not require sensor elements in the measuring tube. This means there are no pressure drops, sealing problems or dead spaces that would otherwise interfere with cleaning.

The sensors thus meet the highest hygiene standards and facilitate the qualification and validation of production and cleaning processes.

The Bürkert flowmeter also supports digital communication with direct connection to most fieldbus types such as Ethernet IP and Profinet, via a platform that guarantees simple transmission of FLOWave sensor data to all common fieldbuses. The maintenance-free, lightweight and yet robust meters can be mounted in any position.

Why solid grease provides peace of mind for food manufacturers

Contamination of food and beverages during manufacturing is always in the back of the mind of those who run the processing factories. At any time during course of making product, plant and machinery could accidentally contaminate the goods, so it is important that best practices are in place once a production run is started.

And while best practices are a good start in keeping food and beverage items free from contaminants, there are some items that can help provide layers of protection during the production process itself.

According to precision mechanics specialist NTN-SNR, the average cost worldwide for product recalls in the food processing industry between 2010 and 2017 was just over $16 million. The most common reasons were foreign bodies found in the product, and contamination by allergens and/or bacteria. With that in mind, the company has produced LP09, a food-grade solid grease that lubricates bearings that are used in the food processing industry. It is designed to give food and beverage processors peace of mind if they are worried about bearing grease contaminating the production line. This particular grease is approved by NSF International, a US-based independent product testing, inspection and certification organisation.

“When you test your product and you find it is contaminated by foreign matter, that food needs to be scrapped and cannot be sold,” said Fabio Rebecchi, who is product manager for NTNCBC Australia who distributes LP09 in Australia. “One of those contaminants could be grease. Can you imagine how much that could cost a company if it fails its compliance?

“However, if a food product makes contact with LP09 solid grease, that’s fine because it complies to the NSF standards. You could ingest it without any harmful effects.

READ:  Increased power rating with poly chain belts

More importantly, you won’t have to scrap the product produced and start all over again.”
One aspect that needs to be stated is that LP09 solid grease needs to be used with stainless-steel bearings that are also produced by the company, because the solid grease contains no rust inhibitor additives. Bearings are an important part of any manufacturing facility, including those in the food and beverage sector. NTN’s stainless-steel bearings will last up to 20 times longer than some of its competitors. And along with the LP09 grease, will do their part in making sure that a processing plant will be running at its optimum.

“It’s about peace of mind,” said Rebecchi. “This is what production and plant managers are looking for in their production processes because it not only helps guarantee their output and yield, it also leads to a reduction of rejects. From a consumer point of view, and as a manufacturer, they are making sure that they have a lot of it covered so the product comes out to the correct specification all the time. We are assisting and improving that process with this grease.”

What it also covers is compliance. This is something that is becoming prevalent as more standards and regulations are implemented. Consumers not only want to know about the calories, packaging and make-up of a product, but also where it came from and where it was processed and packaged. And under what conditions.

“The food and beverage processing industry is very highly regulated and is becoming more so,” said Rebecchi. “The world needs to be fed and there is a growing population so there is more governance within the industry where manufacturers need to be 100 per cent compliant. Plant managers will know that if they are using NSF-compliant grease from NTN then they are on their way to compliance.

“This opens up export markets. It’s also good as a corporation from a corporate social responsible point of view that you’re doing the right thing by the environment. You are eliminating waste. You’re producing to a standard to where your manufacturing processes are optimised all the time. This is what this grease allows you to do. Our bearings and LP09 solid grease are of very high quality and designed for specific solutions,” he said. “That is where our customers can get involved with our engineering and sales people for specific solutions to unique customer requirements. NTN will come up with a direct solution if possible.”

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

                                   

7 risks in the food supply chain that compromise customer safety

A food safety certification and training organisation says failures in food safety – such as contaminated foods, adulterated ingredients and the presence of un-labelled allergens – can have serious, even life-threatening, consequences, and more needs to be done to positively impact customer safety in these areas.

SAI Global has audited thousands of food manufacturers to ensure they comply with global food safety standards, and to ensure they meet legislative requirements in the country of sale and manufacture. As such, it has identified common mistakes that businesses make in the purchase of ingredients, storage, processing, packaging, distribution, and handling of food.

The organisation said that, despite a strong focus by industry on customer awareness and developments in food processing and technology, food scandals continue to impact the industry. In 2017, it found that 47 per cent of consumers were less trusting of a business where major food incidents had occurred.

Kimberly Carey Coffin, global head of food, retail and hospitality at SAI Global, said: “The ever-increasing complexity of the food supply chain translates to ever increasing levels of risk, challenging an organisation’s ability to satisfy its customers in terms of quality, safety, integrity and continuity. As an industry, we are particularly vulnerable when it comes to risks that can occur deep within those chains – like intentional and inadvertent adulteration, substitution, product mislabelling and cross contamination with both naturally occurring and foreign materials.”

She is urging food businesses to dig even deeper into their food supply chain to identify and mitigate all known risks. “Many of the faults that occur in the food supply chain are often the result of an organisation lacking adequate resources to mitigate risks, not understanding the importance of formally monitoring suppliers, or having poor supplier relationships, to name a few. Ever-changing consumer demands are also putting pressure on the need to demonstrate integrity of products, as well as on the continuity of supply. Now, more than ever, food businesses must impose strict assessment practices in food production, manufacturing and other stages of supply chain management to ensure customer safety is a primary focus.”

SAI Global’s seven supply chain integrity risks that could compromise customer safety in the food industry:

  1. Fierce competition, which places downward pressure on supply costs
    As the downward pressure on supply costs continue, food businesses are often forced to look more broadly for the best source and go global. Consequently, the likelihood of risk events happening deeper in the supply chain is greater, putting pressure on manufacturers to rethink their controls.
  2. Most companies are only monitoring their 1st-2nd tier suppliers
    A recent study by SAI Global revealed that many food businesses are only looking at their first-, and perhaps second-, tier suppliers – rather than digging deeper into their supply chains. This is a significant source of risk.
  1. Most companies manage their suppliers through contractual arrangements, rather than more formal monitoring
    A reliance on contractual arrangements place the onus on suppliers to manage their own supply chain. As a result, this places any risks or liabilities on the supplier, however, does not remove the risk to the ultimate food manufacturer.  As suppliers may not be as closely aligned with the customer, more formal monitoring of subcontractors or second- and third-tier suppliers is required to navigate risks to product integrity.
  1. Many companies source raw materials through brokers and agents, resulting in loss of supplier relationships
    Any food business that sources its raw materials through brokers and agents – who can source from anywhere – risk losing control of supplier relationships. Therefore, companies need to get to know their indirect suppliers. Although this requires both time and money, it enables more effective targeting and increases knowledge of a product’s source of origin.
  1. Ever-changing consumer demands, which put pressure on continuity of supply
    Consumers are no longer just looking for a source of ‘fuel’ in the food they eat. They are much better informed about the impact of diet and food choices are often guided by specific dietary requirements or the latest food trend. Given the need to cater to more diverse consumer preferences, there is added pressure on a food business for greater information about provenance, nutrition, allergens and other attributes in the food they consume.
  1. Food brands have inadequate resources for mitigating risks
    To mitigate risks, food businesses need to make supplier diversity management a primary focus. For instance, they need to move from the ‘preferred supplier’ model to a ‘multi-supplier’ relationship model. Although this takes the organisation to unfamiliar areas of the globe, it increases a business’s focus on building holistic supplier relationships of trust and transparency.
  1. The growth of private labels
    There is an obvious financial incentive for retailers to sell private label products, as this allows them to maintain an identity in a price-competitive market. However, most retailers do not have manufacturing infrastructure and rely on suppliers to assess, interpret and manage risk. Again, this ties a food retailer’s brand equity to its suppliers, emphasising the need to manage downstream risk.

Allergies: why traceability in food is important

Allergies are a life-altering and life-threatening condition. Daily, up to 20 per cent of patients with allergies face the fear of fatal reactions. Currently worldwide, seven per cent of children have been diagnosed with allergies, compared to just three per cent of the adult population. This  increase demonstrates the need for the food industry to do more to prepare for growing levels of dietary delicacy.

Food manufacturers need to understand this delicate balance, but there are often many barriers stopping them from reporting accurately. From food fraud to confusing or conflicting legislation, the barriers to effective traceability are diverse. However, the risk to consumers is high – even one mistake can cause potentially fatal consequences.

Traceability
Traceability is the ability to track food through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Most legislation requires producers to be able to trace products one step backwards and one step forwards, at any point in the supply chain. This means that as long as every part of the supply chain is reliable it is hard for ingredients to be mislabeled. It’s simple in theory but can often be a difficult concept to implement.

Food manufacturers need to be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 standard for traceability in the feed and food chain. However, due to the complexity of modern supply chains, it is harder, but also more vital than ever to have a good overview of the complete process.

To this extent, it is good practice for a food and beverage producer to trace every single ingredient throughout the whole of their supply chain. Not only will this have good business applications, because fully understanding a supply chain will drastically reduce the cost of a recall, but problematic steps or points of contamination will become easier to trace, cutting down the number of products that need to be recalled.

Technology
There are tools available to improve traceability, including automated control systems that allow manufacturers to give their product a digital, trackable passport. Recording the details of production digitally through automation systems and feeding them into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM), will create a comprehensive digital trace.

ERPs and MOMs work by integrating all facets of a business into a single database, allowing an in-depth view of business operations. The systems can then break down a production plant into distinct steps, meaning plant managers can easily identify when a contaminate, or potential contaminant, is present. Producers can then state exactly what is in their product and plant managers can accurately understand how many batches need recalling if issues do occur.

While more than 50 million Americans sufferer from chronic allergies every year, this number is expected to double by 2025. With the rate of people with allergies rising, manufacturers need to prepare their systems for even more detail and reporting for customers. Installing robust traceability can help eradicate unintended allergic reactions, building strong consumer trust and ultimately saving lives.

 

Drainage design and food safety

Cleanliness isn’t only about what’s visible. Behind seemingly clean food preparation environments, there lies a potential hygiene risk. Drainage maker ACO can be part of the solution to this problem.

Ultimately, food safety is about ensuring the food we eat is free from contamination. To do this, food preparation areas must be as clean as possible. The aim must be to prevent work areas from becoming breeding grounds for pathogens such as listeria and salmonella and to limit their spread into other areas of the business.

In food processing plants, the possibility for bacteria to grow exists everywhere from tea towels, utensils and appliances to the floor below. For consumers, the consequence of not addressing this problem can extend to food poisoning, allergies, severe illness and even death. With an increased demand for fresh, ready to eat food and specific dietary and allergen requirements, the pressure is on for food manufacturers to provide safe products.

Every food production and retail facility should understand the need for hygienic practices, identify potential hygiene weaknesses and have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan in place. HACCP is a process designed to mitigate risk and ensure the highest level of cleanliness for maximum food safety.

How do drainage systems contribute to hygienic practice?

More often than not, after benchtops, appliances, equipment, cupboards and walls have been cleaned, cleaning water and products are swept or washed into the drainage system via grates and then into the floor gully. Therefore, it is crucial that grates and drain systems are thoroughly cleaned.

In many systems, the design of grates, floor gullies and drainage channels makes them difficult to clean thoroughly. This creates potential sites for the growth of bacteria, which can subsequently spread via foot traffic or washdown spray.

ACO is committed to hygienic drainage systems. Under its Hygienefirst philosophy, the company designs grates, gullies and channels for performance, safety and “cleanability”. Ensuring products are completely clean allows for high hygiene levels for food production facilities.

“The drains primary objective is to remove wastewater, be easily cleaned and subsequently be kept clean. If drainage is designed and installed correctly, it will reduce the bacteria that can harbour in joins, corners or crevices that occur with poor designs, thereby reducing the overall risk of contamination and food spoilage,” said Kate Jennings, product manager, ACO Australia.

Some of the key elements in the ACO design include the absence of joins and crevices where bacteria can build up; as well as sharp corners which can be difficult for brooms, mops and cleaning fluids to adequately reach and clean. In addition, drainable design ensures residual contaminated wastewater will not pool or stagnate.

Made of stainless steel for corrosion resistance and easy cleaning, ACO’s grates, floor gullies and channels are constructed with round edges for safe and easy handling, and smooth contours that won’t trap contaminants. In addition, the grates are slip resistant and minimise the risk of workplace injury. ACO recommends a standardised cleaning procedure for their stainless steel channels, drains and floor gullies. (See accompanying box).

For the most part, the level and frequency of cleaning is determined for the most part by the room’s hygienic risk profile. For example, in areas where food preparation is carried out for ready to eat meals, the moisture level of the food is high and therefore more likely to encourage bacteria growth.

“Assessing the risk with HACCP will determine the frequency and depth of the clean,” said Jennings. “Regular maintenance and inspection is often overlooked and must be part of the overall cleaning procedure for the floor and drainage system to ensure a safe food preparation environment.”

Drainage systems with corners and crevices make it difficult for cleaning with brooms and mops as the bristles cannot reach to remove waste products.
Drainage systems with corners and crevices make it difficult for cleaning with brooms and mops as the bristles cannot reach to remove waste products.

Mandatory labelling for lupin starts soon

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is reminding food businesses that mandatory allergen labelling requirements for lupin begin on 26 May 2018.

FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said lupin is a legume which belongs to the same plant family as peanuts, and has the potential to be an allergen.

“In Australia, lupin has not typically been used in food, however, due to its high protein and fibre content we are seeing an increase in its use,”  Booth said.

“In 2017, lupin was added to the list of allergens that must be declared on food labels. Food businesses were given 12 months to meet these requirements.

“Any foods that contain lupin must declare it on the label from 26 May 2018 – even if it’s already on the shelf.

“Correct allergen labelling can mean the difference between life and death for people with food allergies so it is vital that food businesses get it right.

“Even if the food is not in a package (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), allergen information must be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.”

Two NSW deaths linked to listeria-infected rockmelon

The deaths of two people in NSW have been linked to a listeria outbreak. In addition, a further eight people in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have fallen ill as a result of the outbreak.

All 10 people consumed rockmelon prior to their illness.

The NSW Food Authority said in a statement it is advising consumers who are most vulnerable to Listeria infection such as older persons, and people who have weakened immune systems due to illness or pregnancy, to avoid eating rockmelon after a recent spike in listeriosis cases in elderly people has been linked to the fruit.

As a precaution, consumers particularly those who are elderly, pregnant or immune compromised who may have rockmelon already in their home are advised to discard it.

Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.

The outbreak has been linked to a grower in Nericon NSW. The company voluntarily ceased production on Friday 23 February 2018, shortly after being notified of a potential link to illness and is working proactively with the Authority to further investigate how any contamination could have occurred in order to get back into production as soon as possible.

Any affected product is being removed from the supply chain, so consumers can be assured rockmelons currently available on shelves are not implicated in this outbreak.

Listeriosis starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea. The symptoms can take a few days or even up to six weeks to appear after eating contaminated produce.

People at risk should consult their local doctor as early as possible should symptoms appear.

Increase loading dock safety with Australia’s first telescopic lip dock leveller

The loading dock is a critical link for any business that ships and receives goods, so it makes sense that using the best equipment available is key in the efficient and safe handling of those goods. That’s why Assa Abloy has introduced the first telescopic lip dock leveler to Australia.

The DL6020T Teledock – available exclusively through Assa Abloy in this region –is suitable for every loading situation, regardless of its complexity. Unlike commonly used swing lip levelers, the Teledock has a movable telescopic lip, which provides a larger contact area between the vehicle bed and the dock leveller.

As a result it can be precisely positioned on the vehicle bed for optimal load utilisation and increased safety, explained Andrew Barker, national sales manager at Assa Abloy.

“If you are a large business that has a lot of containers coming into the country, they are usually loaded right to the rear of the trailer. What happens is that the swing lip dock leveller can’t engage with the back of the truck, meaning that the first row of goods has to be unloaded by hand before a fork lift can be used. This causes a slowdown in productivity and a slowdown in unloading and loading the truck,” he said.

“It also becomes a health and safety issue because there is a gap between the warehouse and the back of the truck where people are handballing the goods, meaning people could slip and fall down in between there.”

In the food manufacturing industry, which is governed by stringent regulations on the handling and transportation of food such as cold storage and protecting food from contamination, the Teledock can ensure a quicker unload, speeding up the transfer from truck to temperature controlled equipment in the facility.

The Teledock comes with the option of an Ergonomic Lip providing a bump free transition from the leveller platform to the lip. This makes the DL6020T Teledock ideal for operations with electrical pallet trucks.

It is also fully automated through the innovative and unique Assa Abloy 950 series docking control system that gives direct control of the dock leveler, dock shelter and door all in one control unit. With only a few self explaining buttons it is easy to operate, to meet the demands of modern logistics. Separate steering units or complex wiring are no longer needed.

 

Taking food safety to the floor

It may seem innocuous, but the level of attention that you pay to your factory floor will inevitably improve food and human safety in the workplace. Steven Impey takes a closer inspection.

Finding a balance between product and human safety in the workplace is one of the food sector’s ongoing challenges.

Even on highly automated factory floors, the footfall still remains high wherever quality control requires a keener eye for contamination and operational assistance.

Especially in facilities such as abattoirs, dairy processors, and food factories – where human hand meets the production line – companies must maintain the highest standards for worker safety as well as product integrity.

“What food manufacturers are looking for is product safety – that is the number one issue,” said Ray Schnitzerling, design director at Wiley, who design and build manufacturing facilities.

“You have to be able to clean your floors well and they need to have good drainage; but that doesn’t necessarily solve the human safety factor.

To stop people from slipping, you need to have good flooring systems – however, when you have really good slip assistance, it is going to be harder to clean.

“There is always this conflict between trying to provide something that is easily obtainable and drains well compared to an environment that is safe for workers and is suitable for pedestrian use,” Schnitzerling added.

Among some of the most common causes for injury within Australian industry, slips and trips are still prevalent.

The challenge is to have enough grit in the flooring that makes it easy to clean but remains safe to walk on.

Under section four of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety, expectations are set out for the production environment. This will include the layout and maintenance of the facility and equipment, cleaning, pest control, waste management and foreign body controls.

“It is always a struggle to provide that slip resistance rating as opposed to the cleanability of your floor,” Schnitzerling said.

“However, another thing that is an issue is where you have people standing in the same position for long periods.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 10.47.17 AM

At the top of the tree, stresses on the body are a major cause for long-term injuries, meaning a work environment must meet the needs on the people of the ground as well as the food and drink they produce.

One area that isn’t always taken into consideration is the type and standard of flooring a processing plant invests in.

For example, there are various floor materials that have rubber in them to combat body fatigue – although they are not always desirable in a food environment.

It therefore means knowing what sort of application you need to use in different work environments.

For example, in an abattoir, blood is very aggressive and requires a particular resin flooring that is not susceptible to blood corrosion.

In a milk factory, it is the same story. Whatever the food type you produce, you need to make sure that your flooring is resistant to corrosive food products.

At Flowcrete, the flooring design company based in New South Wales, its engineers work across a multitude of industries.

“Within food and beverage as well as other sectors, we try to work to educate people on what their specific requirements are,” said Ilona Osborne, Flowcrete’s marketing manager.

“Flooring is one of the most important things you can have in a food facility although, unfortunately, it really is an afterthought for a lot of businesses.

“That is why we try to work with businesses on the specification side of things and to look at how it benefits their facility.”

The non-slip issue can always be a safety problem, she explains – especially in wet-processing areas like abattoirs, which require flooring with quite a severe non-slip aggregate in it.

However, they can be quite difficult to clean so it is important to ensure that you have a good material that is easy to maintain and having the correct cleaning tools.

This may include an anti-microbial agent built into the resin which works to proactively kill bacteria on the surface of the floor and create a hygienic environment when accompanied by the correct cleaning procedures.

“We have been working with a lot of clients who have offered a lot of feedback. Traditional resin flooring systems can be difficult to clean which is why we have developed a gloss finish,” Osborne said.

“It’s all about continually looking at the facility and what the requirements are for an individual business and adjusting the flooring systems to suit.”

At Roxset, one of Australia’s leading flooring solutions providers, offering a one-to-one service is vital to getting the job done right first time and in a timely manner.

With profitability and production time now so tightly connected, knowing the ins and outs of the client’s targets is critical to making the right choice for any given floor surface.

Bruce Willan, Roxset’s managing director based in Sydney, explains why that is the company’s number one rule.

“It is a problem seen across the manufacturing industry, where people are becoming fascinated by the latest robotics and technology while the floor surface they work on is important to some but not necessarily to others,” he said.

“It is actually an integral part to any production business and, as an industry necessity, it is important that we provide a high quality food grade surface suitable for rapid installation while there is growing pressure in Australia to run your business 24 hours a day.”

Making sure that a client can easily maintain their floor and won’t need a recall after installation is a long-term investment and proves to be one of the biggest challenges across the industry.

“The time frame that we often work with is very limited – for the larger projects, it could take as few as five days to complete 1,000sqm – and requires, on our part, a good understanding of our clients and their needs,” Willan continued.

“At Roxset, we particularly like to interact with our clients directly so that they and their clients are best served rather than liaising with a third-party contractor.

“We therefore need to make sure to tailor each floor surface to each specific client and, on our part, requires a larger operation that can serve companies across the country, in any given sector, at any given time.”

Another area of importance is knowing a client’s internal traffic and the critical areas of the facility so that the architect can come up with a specific plan.

“Working with and learning from the client involved to achieve the best result means acting as one unit,” Willan said.

“More food processors are now dealing with clients on an international stage and want to look the part, so making sure your flooring is up to standards is the first step to making your factory look the part too.”

One of the misconceptions Osborne has recognised from events such as foodpro is the role resin plays in the maintenance of different industrial flooring.

At Flowcrete, they are offering cementitious polyurethane resin flooring that can be used as an alternative option in the food and beverage industry across a variety of sub-markets.

These flooring systems are designed to work within a punishing environment and provide wear, impact and chemical resistance, which is a benefit to areas where implements can drop on to and cause damage to the floor.

Cementitious polyurethane resins are also able to withstand thermal fluctuations from -40°C to 120°C, which are often found at different stages and zones of production.

Furthermore, they can also feature natural antimicrobial additives, which provide additional protection against bacteria and fungi.

“In one facility, you may have smoke rooms and you may have areas where you are pulling out hot trolleys or you may have cold rooms for process packaging,” Osborne explained

“They all require different flooring technology – and you are not going to use the same flooring you use in a commercial kitchen as you would in a packaging area.”

The introduction of robotics into the workforce has also changed the way companies think about the surface they work on.

For example, processors may consider using their flooring to create zones where it is safe and not safe to work.

This could include painted patterns or lines in the floor’s material that show where people can walk and therefore requires a little bit more slip resistance.

“Factories will probably move to a lights out situation where there are no people within the factory during a period of time,” Schnitzerling said.

“Although there will be supervisors, who may only be allowed to enter the production area at a certain time, you are always going to have some manual processes in place.”

While most manufacturers are trying to replace manual work with automation, you still need floors that can be cleaned.

“That’s what food manufacturers are looking for most of all – a hygienic environment for the production of their food,” he added.

 

Automated food sorting machines to grow at seven per cent CAGR by 2021

Technavio market research analysts forecast the global automated food sorting machines market to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of close to seven per cent during the forecast period, according to their latest report.

The research company’s analysts highlight the following three market drivers that are contributing to the growth of the global automated food sorting machines market:

  • Retrofit activities carried out in aging food processing facilities
  • Rising demand for food products and shorter delivery cycle
  • Implementation of standards applicable to food processing

The food industry is the oldest industry that has gone through several revolutions such as Green Revolution, White Revolution, and Pink Revolution. Depending on the type of food products manufactured, there have been several changes in the methods of food processing witnessed in the industry. However, the introduction of automation in the industry is transforming the aging industry by integrating new methods and technique, according to Technavio.

“Automation has allowed the industry to reduce the manual work, improve hygiene, and speed-up the process. Also, realising the cost benefits achieved in terms of return-on-investment in the long run, small and medium-sized enterprises too have switched to automated machines to optimise industry operations,” says Sushmit Chakraborty, a lead analyst at Technavio for automation research.

Rising demand for food products and shorter delivery cycle

The improving economy of developing nations has witnessed a rise in the demand for different food products and changes in eating habits. To serve the growing need for food, the food industry is required to reduce the process time and delivery time. This can be achieved by reducing the process cycle time and implementation of automated machines.

Implementation of automated machines has drastically reduced the process time and increased the quality of food products manufactured. The demand for various food products such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, oils and fats, and meat and seafood can be fulfilled by integrating the processes that require minimum process and cycle time.

“Automated food sorting machines are used for different food items, thus making the processes faster and more hygienic. Industrial automation and information analytics allow the user to extract the data and perform the activities more accurately and fast, thereby reducing the delivery cycle,” says Sushmit.

Implementation of standards applicable to food processing

The food industry must adhere to food and safety standards that regulate and monitor the food quality. For every food product manufactured, there are a set of quality standards that are to be maintained during the manufacturing process. Traditionally, food industry involved manual efforts during the manufacturing processes. However, to achieve the quality standards decided by food safety and standard authority, it is necessary for food manufacturing companies to rely on food processing equipment.

Automated food sorting machines provide speed and allow the industry to optimise the quality standards. The improved quality achieved by implementing automated machines and integrating methods with artificial intelligence will result in the further growth of the market.

Image: BBC Technologies’ CURO 16

Anti-slip surface protection film

3M Anti-Slip Surface Protection Film can help minimise the impact liquid drips, spills, heavy traffic, rolling chairs and other finish-eroding events can have on floors and surfaces, while also keeping your premises safe.

This is a thin, almost invisible film that protects surfaces from everyday wear and tear. It has been certified to a P4 slip rating. The product comes in a 1.2m x 15m mini roll and a 80mm x 15m roll which is ideal for stair cases.

Reducing the number of stripping and recoating events required, the anti-slip film needs no special tools or techniques for installation or removal. The film is ideal for waxed vinyl, sealed concrete, marble, ceramic tile, terrazzo and more. In addition, it is compatible with standard floor cleaning procedures and cleaning chemicals.

In addition to meeting the slip resistance requirements the unique peelable feature of this product removes the need to use mechanical methods or harsh chemicals to remove and replace coating.

FSANZ calls for submissions on changes to maximum residue limits

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions on a proposal to amend maximum residue limits (MRLs) for certain agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Mark Booth said the proposal aimed to harmonise limits in the Food Standards Code with limits used overseas.

“If a chemical is found in a food product that does not have an MRL for that chemical it cannot be legally sold in Australia,” Mr Booth said.

“Chemicals can be used differently around the world because of different pests, diseases and environmental factors. This means residues in imported foods may differ from those in domestically produced products, but that does not mean there is a safety issue.

“FSANZ has assessed the proposal and concluded there are no public health and safety concerns relating to the changes.”

All FSANZ decisions on standards are notified to ministers responsible for food regulation. The ministers can decide to adopt, amend, or reject standards or they can ask for a review.