UHMW in Food Safety and Sanitation
When crafting manufacturing products for use in the food and beverage industry, the need for sanitation is a critical component. Manufacturers must be able to comply with the FDA regulations for sanitizing surfaces and protecting the end consumer from food-borne illnesses. UHMW is a common plastic used for these applications, providing safe, easily sanitized surfaces for food prep.
The Importance of Food Safety in the Food and Beverage Industry
Because food can easily be contaminated with everything from allergens to viruses, safety in the food and beverage industry is critical. To help with this, the USDA and FDA have regulations about the safe handling of food in manufacturing that companies must comply with. These include the following regulations:
- Food Safety Modernization Act: This act allows the FDA to oversee how foods are grown, harvested, and processed to prevent food-borne illnesses.
- FSMA Sanitary Transportation Rule: This portion of the FSMA applies to the transporting of food, including shipping, receiving, loading, and carrying, via motor or rail vehicles.
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice: Companies must educate their employees on safe food manufacturing and packing processes.
- The Safe Quality Food Institute: The SQFI has a system that helps inspect companies and ensure they keep up with current safe food handling practices.
These rules, regulations, and codes require companies to evaluate many areas of their facilities. Any equipment that comes in contact with the food must follow the guidelines. This includes loading docks and the entire supply chain. If a manufacturer fails to comply with this process, an entire product may become contaminated and unsafe to sell, leading to significant monetary loss.
UMHW’s Compliance with FDA and USDA Regulations
UMHW is Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, a high-quality polyethylene commonly used in the food handling industry to maintain compliance with FDA and USDA regulations. It has several properties that help manufacturers stay in compliance.
First, this plastic has an ultra-high molecular weight range of 3 to 6 million, much higher than the 300,000 to 500,000 for high molecular weight resins. This range makes it strong enough to withstand the harsh cleaning processes necessary to keep food prep stations clean without damage or melting. This material is also highly moisture resistant, meaning it will not remove water from the foods prepared on the surfaces. Thus, the risk of contaminating one food with liquids from another is much lower. These properties mean that UHMW complies with all FDA and USDA food standards and can come in direct contact with food without the risk of compliance issues.
Advantages of UHMW Over Traditional Materials
While compliance is a primary concern for food and beverage processing applications, UHMW also has additional benefits over traditional materials in this industry. Some of these include:
- Formulated to withstand high temperatures: The food manufacturing process can generate high temperatures, and UHMW is well equipped to resist these.
- Low moisture absorption rate: With a moisture absorption rate of less than 10%, food prep’s high humidity, and moisture are not an issue that will damage UHMW materials.
- Easy to clean: Because UHMW resists chemical corrosion, it won’t be damaged by commercial-grade cleaners when used in food manufacturing and storage applications, making it easy to clean to keep mold, bacteria, and viruses away from the food.
- Low coefficient of friction: This plastic has a lubricant added to its resin, so it has a low coefficient of friction, which means it can be made into moving parts, like conveyor system belts.
Benefits of Using UHMW for Food and Beverage Conveying Systems
UHMW is particularly valuable in food and beverage conveying systems. Its wear and impact resistance and compressive strength make it ideal for its conveying systems, including for belts. It’s also cheaper than other common materials, like Teflon, and it is a harder material that won't be damaged by pressure as quickly. Finally, it has a high operating treatment, making it a good choice for these applications.
What Is the Temperature Range of UHMW?
UHMW's capability to maintain its integrity at sustained temperatures of up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius) and withstand short-term exposure up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) makes it an ideal, durable, and cost-effective solution for applications in industries like food and beverage, particularly in conditions that may involve temporary temperature spikes.
Purchase UHMW From Piedmont Plastics
UHMW may be a good fit if you are in the food and beverage industry and want strong, affordable, and compliant plastic. Contact Piedmont Plastics to find the right UHMW product for your needs.