Keep food safety in mind when buying equipment

With auction and trade show season in full swing, an eye often turns to acquisition of new or refurbished produce washing, packing and grading equipment. When evaluating equipment, keep food safety in mind to avoid difficulties.

When evaluating new acquisitions, it’s good to ask yourself a few questions to help guide choices from a food safety perspective.

Is the equipment made of cleanable materials?

Some equipment may have parts made of material that practically defies cleaning. When you have a choice, aim to pick materials that can be cleaned and sanitized, like stainless steel and plastic.

Can I take the equipment apart to clean it?

Rollers, brushes and brush washers will get dirty and need to be removed, cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. Hollow rollers are particularly problematic. The same is true of conveyor belts and bumpers. The more a machine’s food contact surfaces can be removed and cleaned without tearing the whole machine apart the less hassle you will have later on.

Are there food contact surfaces that can accumulate water or filth?

Any niches or depressions that do not drain can accumulate organic debris and breed bacteria. Aim for rounded corners and coving along bases of food contact areas to minimize development of filth. Make sure that any equipment carrying food from dunk tanks has a pitch or a design which encourages drainage away from the produce and does not accumulate to foster bacterial growth.

These questions were derived from a factsheet from the American Meat Institute outlining 10 principles of sanitary design. To obtain more information about cleanable equipment, contact the Agrifood Safety Work Group at or 517-788-4292 and ask for the American Meat Institute Factsheet on Sanitary Equipment Design.

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