How often do you give any real thought to the supply chain behind the food you eat? Nowadays, it’s not only tropical foodstuffs such as sugar, coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas that are shipped long distances to reach our tables, but also fruits and vegetables that used to be grown locally in household gardens and on small farms. An apple imported to California from New Zealand or to Germany from South Africa is often less expensive than an apple from San Francisco or Munich just an hour away. Our focus here is not on the question of whether this is really cheaper in the long-term or more sustainable. Instead, we want to take a look at food production plants, a very important part of the supply chain and where the most rigorous of hygienic standards have to be met to produce healthy food. Numerous factors need to be addressed during the building design process.
The vast food processing industry is made up of many different types of business, such as dairy and beverage plants, catering and industrial kitchens, wineries, fish packing facilities, bakeries, fruit and vegetable processing plants and snack production operations. Each of these has its own specific requirements for flooring, walls and other surfaces. The range of installations includes freezers, bottling lines, raw material processing and handling zones, as well as packaging and storage areas. The list is endless. The key to designing an efficient industrial facility is to study production line and operation requirements and communicate frequently with facility managers.
Depending on what it manufactures or stores, an industrial facility normally handles a lot of activities on a daily basis, including moving heavy loads, pallets and boxes around, sometimes under strict temperature requirements. Another common issue is the need to renew the floors to accommodate a totally different kind of business after a number of years.
What is more, the floors not only have to withstand severe exposure to mechanical, chemical and thermal stresses for example, they also need to provide the right degree of slip resistance required under health and safety regulations. Sika’s full range of seamless and resistant flooring solutions offers various world-beating technologies and proven quality to meet all these challenges.
Food safety and hygiene have become visible on the radar screens of consumers, industry, regulators, and other stakeholders like never before. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), along with its various certification partners, has raised the bar on food safety across all segments of the industry from raw material suppliers and producers to distributors and retailers. And for good reason. More than 200 diseases are known to be caused or carried by food.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that every year thousands upon thousands of people die from them. A 2010 global study, for instance, showed an estimated 582 million reported cases of food illnesses spanning 22 different diseases and causing approximately 351,000 deaths. But there’s even more at stake. Unsafe food poses major economic risks, especially in a globalized world. Take for example Germany’s 2011 E. coli outbreak, which reportedly caused USD 1.3 billion in losses for farmers and industries across Europe and elsewhere.
Innovations that have been developed to satisfy consumers’ demand for more nutritious and better tasting food are not enough. These innovations must also be implemented at the plant level. The facility itself has to be designed and constructed in ways that prevent any possibility of food contamination.
Choosing the right flooring, walls, and other surfaces can help do this. Ideally, flooring should be seamless and easy to clean, sanitize, and rinse thoroughly to remove wash-down residues and any viruses, bacteria or pests that might be present.
Besides hygiene safety, other major concerns facing every buyer are maintenance, durability, resistance, cost assessment, sustainability, warranties and quality assurance, plus the required certifications. Sika not only provides the products, but also a consultative, time-sensitive, and service-based approach to their activities, which is important for the complex challenges to be resolved.
A further hygienic safety consideration, and one where increasing emphasis is now being put, is aesthetics, most particularly colors, for both functional and safety reasons. From a technical point of view, colors other than the traditional red, such as yellow and beige, are often now preferred because food waste, dirt and other contaminants can be more easily seen. Color can also have a big influence on the perceived quality of the workspace too, with lighter and brighter colors creating a much more positive environment than darker, flatter colors. Meat plants, for instance, often now use yellow instead of red so that food waste can be very quickly seen and cleaned up; salad and vegetable facilities now prefer to use green or yellow.
Current food trends could be summed up by the buzz terms “snackification”, low-fat, weight wellness, naturally functional proteins, good and bad carbs, free-from-whatever-comes-to-our-minds or digestive health. But we must always remember that we are at the very end of the food chain. Whichever new trend we come up with and follow, there are many challenges to bridge before servings of healthy food land on our table and we have to decide what to eat and how much.