Food industry

The food industry is a sector in which chemistry plays a huge role. Chemical preparations are used in food production and processing, such as drying, pasteurization, cooling, fermentation, cleaning and washing. They are crucial for maintaining a high quality products.

Some chemicals are used as direct food additives to improve its taste, aroma and appearance. These additives can also act as preservatives, preventing spoilage by inhibiting the activity of microorganisms. Another application of chemical products in the food industry is the production of packaging intended for contact with food. These include various types of foils, containers, boxes, cutlery and many more.

Published: 6-06-2016

The food industry is one of the most diversified industrial areas. Food products are produced both in highly mechanized factories and in small, local plants that base their income on seasonal production. Many branches of the food industry show total dependence on local agriculture or fisheries. The growing range of products, as well as difficulties related to transport, storage and low durability of food, resulted in the gradual introduction of new technologies and production processes. Moreover, demographic pressure and uneven distribution of agricultural resources have an impact on the food industry, forcing food producers to improve distribution and logistics processes. An additional factor that still has a huge impact on the dynamic development of the food industry is constant economic and marketing pressure, which pushes the food sector to having to constantly “fight” for new clients. This is mainly due to the fact that the food industry provides the market with new and more diversified products with a large number of equivalents and substitutes. The global production of food products is growing year on year. A significant part of this increase is attributed to the increased demand for processed food and beverages, mainly in developing countries, where the market has not yet been saturated.

Structure of the food sector

The food sector is the most widespread and diverse branch of the processing industry. It consists of a number of industries, such as:

a) Meat industry – is associated with meat processing and its conservation. The meat industry covers all companies involved in the processing of meat raw material, i.e. its slaughter, processing, cutting of carcasses, as well as the production of meat preparations, offal, fats and other ready-made products. The meat industry is the largest industry in the food sector.

b) Fish industry – deals with the processing of products from sea and inland fishing (frozen products). In addition, the fish industry also handles portioning, filleting, marinating, canning and smoking fish.

c) Fruit and vegetable industry – deals with the primary and in-depth processing of fruits and vegetables for many products, such as, juices and fruit drinks, dried fruits, frozen fruits and vegetables, jams, marmalade and many others.

d) Tobacco industry – includes companies involved in the production of tobacco and related products.

e) Dairy industry – includes buying and processing milk for dairy products, such as butter, cream, milk drinks, ice cream, ripening cheese, processed cheese, cottage cheese and many others. In the dairy industry, hydrochloric acid is used, which is dosed additionally in the production of a number of products, for example, curd and homogenized cheeses, or yogurts. The synthetic hydrochloric acid offered by the PCC Group is characterized by a very high quality due to the low content of impurities resulting from the method of production used (combustion of chlorine in hydrogen). It can also be used as an acidity regulator in food products (E507). Another product frequently used in the dairy industry is soda lye. Thanks to its properties it can be used for disinfection of milking equipment and tanks used for transport and storage of dairy products.

f) Sugar and confectionery industry – includes the cultivation of sugar plants and the production of confectionery and pastry products. During the production of sugar from sugar beet, the formation of foam is a serious problem. To prevent this, block copolymers EO/PO (ROKAmer series) can be used, which effectively eliminate foam at all stages of the technological process. Another product dedicated to the sugar industry is Rokrysol PZW. It is a polyacrylic acid sodium salt, which is used in the sugar industry as a chemical agent to prevent overgrowing of the heating surface of the evaporator.

g) The milling industry – it is a broad industry covering activity in the field of wholesale trade and milling of cereals for food and feed purposes, as well as the production of other products, such as pasta.

h) Oil and fat industry – is associated with the cultivation of oil plants and the production of a number of products such as oil, olive oil, margarine, etc. A by-product associated with the processing of seeds is bruised grain used mainly as a feed component.

i) The alcohol industry – deals in the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. It is divided into three industries: brewing, spirits and wine. Sodium hypochlorite is used very often as a disinfectant in the production of wine and beer.

Types of packaging used in the food industry

Storage of raw materials and finished products is a key aspect in the food sector. This is particularly important in the case of seasonal production, e.g. when refining sugar or brewing beer. The method of storage varies depending on the product’s nature (liquid or solid state), preservation methods and packaging (in sacks, boxes, bottles, in bulk). Premises intended for storing food must be designed so that they meet the appropriate operating and maintenance conditions, e.g. by adjusting the temperature and humidity to the type of product stored.

There are many methods of food packaging. One of them is preservation, which is used mainly in the meat and fish industry. In this case, the basic material used for the production of packaging is galvanized low-carbon steel or aluminum sheet. In the food industry, glass packaging is also commonly used, mainly for packaging of preserves, juices, pastes and concentrates. The main advantage of glass packaging is that it is chemically inert and can be used many times.

The most widely used type of packaging in the food industry are containers made of plastics. They owe their popularity to excellent physicochemical and mechanical properties, such as resistance to chemical compounds, lightness, or susceptibility to forming and joining. They are used in the meat, fruit and vegetable, fish, dairy, confectionery and within many other industries.

The products of the ROKAnol series are a group of additives that can be used in the production process of packaging or food contact materials. ROKAnol has been approved for use as a food additive based on the recommendations of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the German organization BfR (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung). ROKAnol LP2023 and ROKAnol RZ4P11 are perfectly suited as anti-foam additives during the production of packaging paper. In the production of packaging used in the food industry, polyethylene glycols (PEGs), offered by the PCC Group in the POLIkol series, are also used.

Cleanliness and the food industry

Washing and disinfection are very important stages during the food production process, largely affecting the safety and quality of manufactured food products. It is crucial for ensuring the durability of food products, reducing the risks associated with their production, as well as ensuring a clean and friendly work environment. The use of appropriate cleaning and disinfection processes as well as high-quality cleaning products can effectively prevent microbial contamination. It is particularly dangerous because it can lead to such effects as lowering the quality of the product, damage to health or even life-threatening situations.

The cleaning process does not guarantee complete decontamination, but is treated as a preliminary stage of disinfection. It also has an impact on reducing the amount of waste produced due to food spoilage, which indirectly affects the lifespan of machinery and production installations.

In practice, it is possible to distinguish three main factors responsible for the occurrence of contaminants in food products:

a) biological – e.g. microorganisms or toxins,
b) chemical – e.g. residues of cleaning and disinfecting agents, lubricants,
c) physical – e.g. sand and stones.

Properly carried out cleaning and disinfection process should remove all undesirable pollutants. There are four factors that determine its effectiveness:

a) the type of chemical used,
b) application time,
c) temperature,
d) mechanics and type of process (e.g. equipment used).

The PCC Group offers a number of ready-made chemical formulations that are widely used as cleaning substances. The Lavacide CIP and Solvaren CIP series are preparations for cleaning installations and closed circuits in contact with food and animal nutrition. These products are dedicated to CIP (Cleaning in Place) systems and ensure quick, effective and reliable cleaning of all types of devices in the production process.

The PCC Group also offers ready-to-use formulations for disinfection called Hysepta. They are specialized preparations used for disinfecting air, rooms, surfaces and devices that come into contact with food and animal nutrition. Hysepta products, thanks to their specially selected composition, are widely used not only in the food industry. They can also be used for disinfection of means of transport, loading surfaces, toilets and air-conditioning systems. Another product group proposed by the PCC Group for cleaning in the food industry is the Neutril series. These are preparations for manual cleaning and disinfection of surfaces in contact with food and animal nutrition. The Neutril Forte Foam System can be used in all systems and devices designed for foam cleaning.

Specialist washing technologies used in the food industry

In addition to standard cleaning methods, such as hand washing, the food industry requires a range of specialized technologies to ensure the highest possible security for the final product. Examples of specialized cleaning and disinfection techniques used in the food industry are:

a) Cleaning with pressure jet and foam. During this type of washing, water is passed through the nozzle under increased pressure (20-40 bar). Then the entire cleaned surface is covered with a thin layer of foam, which is also a carrier of chemicals for cleaning and disinfection. The final stage of washing is rinsing the foam with hot or cold water. Solvaren Foam Cl and Solvaren Foam Cl plus can be used here. These are specialized preparations that dissolve any organic impurities, dedicated to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and devices that come into contact with food and animal nutrition.

b) Dry ice cleaning. It is a method of cleaning and disinfection applied without using water, where cleaning is carried out with the use of CO2 in the form of granules at a temperature of about -80°C.

c) CIP cleaning (Cleaning In Place). It is used in installations that cannot be dismantled for cleaning. This technology includes a programmed cycle consisting of rinsing and cleaning steps. The process is completely automated. The effective removal of pollutants strongly depends on the physicochemical properties of the cleaning agent. The Lavacide CIP and Solvaren CIP series products are perfect for cleaning installations and closed circuits that are in contact with food and animal feed.

d) WIP (Washing In Place) systems. They can be configured to meet the specific needs of end-users. The main difference between CIP and WIP is that the latter is not fully automated. The standard cleaning cycle lasts approximately 45 to 60 min. The advantages of WIP systems in relation to traditional cleaning are: standardization of the cleaning process, energy-saving and the ability to clean areas to which access is difficult.

The latest trends in the food industry

The food sector is an extremely diverse industry. To achieve success, the key issue is to stay in line with the changing needs of customers. To accomplish this, it is extremely important to use the latest available strategies and technology. Moreover, currently consumers are paying more attention to ecology and quality of food produced. Wide access to modern technologies allows customers to make informed choices about the products they consume. That is why food safety and a preventive action plan will be one of the most important trends in the food industry in the coming years. Of course, in order to ensure the highest quality of products, it is also very important to use modern packaging solutions. Plastics are the leaders in this respect, as they are characterized by extreme versatility and, at the same time, relatively low manufacturing costs, thanks to the use of a large number of modern polymers and modifying additives.

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