Sustainability as the main influence on the cleanliness of the food industry

Cleaning and disinfection of production equipment and facilities is a fundamental operation in reducing the risk of contamination in the food industry. However, the relationship between the surface properties of materials and their hygienic ability is not fully understood.

Paloma Roldán, materials engineer and AINIA experthe explained that in order to deepen this knowledge and achieve a more efficient and sustainable selection of materials, enabling the development of industrial cleaning protocols with less impact on the environment, the food industry seeks inspiration from nature.

According to Roldán, industries such as food require production conditions that minimize risk of product contamination. This is an aspect closely related to consumer health, which is why it is widely regulated.

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Safety in the food industry

Companies allocate resources to guarantee safety of manufactured productstherefore, one of the main actions carried out to reduce these risks is the cleaning and disinfection of production equipment and facilities.

  • Roldán explains that these operations are usually designed based on the most unfavorable hypothesis, without adjusting to the degree of contamination present or the characteristics of the surfaces to be disinfected.

Therefore, these processes involve significant consumption of resources (mainly energy, water, chemicals and time) and create a significant impact on the environment they result from own consumption and generated waste water.

Preventive strategies, such as the hygienic design of equipment and facilities, including surface finishes, construction materials and other factors that facilitate hygiene or prevent soiling, contribute to reducing the impact of cleaning and disinfection operations. Roldán pointed.

food industry
Companies allocate resources to guarantee the safety of manufactured products

Cleaning protocols and design of new materials

With the support of the Valencia Institute for Business Competitiveness (IVACE) and FEDER funds, BIOMIMAT project aims to explore new lines of knowledge that enable a more efficient and sustainable selection of materials that come into contact with products sensitive to contamination, as well as their surface treatment.

By deepening our knowledge of the surface properties of materials that reduce waste adhesion (fouling), cleaning protocols with less environmental impact can be developed.

  • On the other hand, Roldán commented that it is planned to design a new building material based on the foundation biomimicry (the science that studies nature as a source of inspiration for solving technological challenges that have already been solved in it)which represent a hygienic improvement compared to the materials commonly used in the construction of facilities and equipment in production facilities in the above sectors.

Metals and polymers, as well as fatty residues, were selected as the main groups of materials for study. In this way, a wide field is opened for the study of waste (food and cosmetics) and its interaction with the materials it comes into contact with.

The project is planned in two phases:

  1. The first part was focused on the search for natural models that can achieve the required functionality
  2. The second part was focused on developing prototypes from these models and evaluating their hygiene.

At the end of the project, there will be better knowledge about the relationship between the surface properties of materials and their hygienic ability, which is essential for optimizing cleaning and disinfection activities through improving the hygienic characteristics of surfaces with which food and cosmetic products come into contact during their preparation.” concluded Roldán.

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