Stainless Steel in the Food and Beverage Industry


stainless steel food processingThe CDC estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases in the United States. As a result, an emphasis has been placed on food safety, and there has been an increasing number of industry standards and government regulations put into place. Included in these are the popular HACCP and FSMA. Throughout the new rules and guidelines, the intent remains the same: to prevent contamination and to ensure food safety. Controlling the cleanliness of the environment in a food and beverage facility is critical to meet this intent. Food contamination can result in lost production batches, product recalls, fines and regulatory fees; all of these can cost a company tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even worse, product recalls can be detrimental to a company’s reputation. As cleanliness is more important than ever, stainless steel has become the number one choice to meet the challenges in the food and beverage industry as it combats all of the factors listed below.

CORROSIVE AGENTS


Wash-Down Procedures

Usually the most corrosive areas of a food and beverage facility are the wash-down regions. Recently, wash-down procedures are including higher pressures and temperatures as well as greater frequency and higher chemical concentrations in order to prevent contamination. Chemical mixtures can vary across industry but all contain cleaning agents that can be very corrosive.

Food and Additives

Food itself can be corrosive in nature. Many foods are acidic and therefore contain a high chloride ion concentration, which can lead to corrosion. Limes, lemons, vinegar, and apples are just a few examples of foods that have a low pH. In addition to the food itself, organic acids are often added as flavor enhancers, preservatives, acid regulators, etc. and can be corrosive in nature. Some of the most common organic acids include acetic, citric, formic, and lactic acid.

Environment and Processes

Other corrosion catalysts such as heat, moisture, evaporation, and cooling water can also be found in food and beverage plants. Temperatures in dairy production can reach as high as 130°C. In other facilities, brine cooling or steam heating processes may be used. When water is present, it may contain additional impurities and high chloride levels.


OTHER FACTORS


Exposure to Bacteria

Food particles and bacteria can become trapped in small spaces and hard to clean areas such as crevices and cracks. This can harbor the growth of bacteria and lead to contamination. A smooth and non-absorbent surface can help to prevent this entrapment.

Leaching

Leaching is defined as “dissolving out by the action of a percolating (penetrating) liquid.” When in contact with food and beverage applications, some metals and nonmetallic surfaces (e.g., rubber, plastic, paints, etc.) may leach into products, causing contamination.


Stainless Steel Solutions

The material composition of stainless steel provides superior corrosion resistance. This corrosion resistant property helps stainless steel stand up to wash-down environments, corrosive foods, and additives, as well as processing conditions and bacteria.

In addition to its corrosion resistance as a result of its chemistry, stainless steel has other benefits. Stainless maintains its mechanical properties (e.g., strength and ductility) at both high and low temperature extremes. Furthermore, a smooth surface helps prevent bacteria and food particles from becoming trapped. Gibson Stainless products have a bright, polished finish, which further enhances the smooth surface. Finally, stainless steel is neutral and will not leach into a product, ensuring foods will not be chemically affected by coatings, paint, or the alloy itself.

As the superior metal, stainless steel may cost more initially but may save a company various costs involved with scrapped production batches and penalty fees, as well as the headaches of regulatory issues, recalls, and plant shutdowns.

For more detailed information on the Food and Beverage industry, please visit the Food and Beverage section of our Applications page.

To learn more about stainless steel or to discuss your next project, contact Gibson Stainless today.

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