Hygiene and the 'cleanability' of equipment used in the production of food are paramount. The widespread use of stainless steel equipment in the food industry goes some way towards ensuring these criteria are met - but the assurances provided by stainless steel are only as good as the fabrication quality of the equipment.
Following a presentation at ASSDA's annual conference in 2003 on the quality of food fabrications, particularly in the dairy industry, it became apparent that fabrication specifications, if they existed, were often inadequate and inconsistent.
As a result, ASSDA launched a co-operative venture, working closely with many fabricators involved in the food industry, to create the “ASSDA Food Specification: Fabrication and Installation of Stainless Steel Process Plant and Equipment in the Food and Beverage Industries”.
The title may be complex, but the intention is simple: used in conjunction with ASSDA's Accredited Fabricator scheme, it will standardise fabrication practices in Australia and improve efficiency and reliability by raising the standard of quality delivered.
ASSDA's Food Code of Practice is not intended to replace accepted national and international standards. Instead, it reflects their requirements in the design and fabrication process specifically for food and beverage plant. The specification is intended as a step forward from the more generic advice offered by the well-known “Blue Book”, published by ASSDA's sister organisation NZSSDA.
The Food Spec supplements the purchaser's specification and contract, with the purchaser's performance criteria and the supplier's design being the default conditions. There are prescriptive sections, such as those relating to spacing for access or acceptable levels of heat tint. However, best practice is flagged with the expectation that a contrary decision must be well supported. The consistent theme throughout is the delivery of cleanable surfaces in a hygienic environment.
The specification can be broken into four sections:
1. Scope, definitions, interpretation, document hierarchy and supplier systems required;
2. Design requirements with both general rules and specific items for process equipment, process piping and other piping;
3. Fabrication requirements for:
- Overall necessities of grade, materials care, welding and finishing procedures;
- Process vessel fabrication, whether by the supplier or others;
- The handling, welding and finishing of process tubing at ambient or elevated pressures; and
- The fabrication of non-product contact pipework at low or high pressures.
4. Practicalities such as transport, installation, commissioning and insurance.
The specification includes two appendices that list relevant standards and a discussion on the pros and cons of autogenous and filler metal use in welding of tubing.
There is no doubt that ASSDA's Food Code of Practice fills a void in the food industry. It is now up to operators in the industry to use it to improve practices in both their own businesses and the industry as a whole.