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Food safety: From FDA regulations to wire cloth  

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting public health through a healthy and sanitary food supply. It does this through regulations, inspections and partnership with the food and beverage industry. In overseeing food producers, the FDA’s jurisdiction covers a broad range of products and processes all with differing levels of risk. Regulations attempt to mitigate these risks, but this is where physical solutions like wire cloth and mesh play their part in food safety.

Regulatory overview

Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 110 (21 CFR 110) details current food good manufacturing processes (GMPs). These are the foundation for many FDA inspections as they relate to:

  • Methods, equipment, facilities and controls for food production

  • Minimum sanitary and processing requirements

The current GMPs have seven subparts which are further subdivided into addition sections.

GMP subparts

The following five subparts are covered briefly here but more details are located at the FDA’s website.

  • Subpart A – Defines when regulatory compliance is required or simply recommended and employee personal hygiene

  • Subpart B – Outlines facility maintenance, waste control, describes sanitary operations and requirements

  • Subpart C – Describes equipment and utensil design to ensure sanitary conditions

  • Subpart E – Covers sanitary processes and controls to maintain food safety and final product storage

  • Subpart G – Details the maximum permissible amounts of foreign contaminants and defects in food that do not pose a health hazard. This includes rodent filth, insects and mold

The FDA allows what in my food?

When a food exceeds the FDA’s defect action level (DAL) it is considered “adulterated” and subject to regulatory enforcement. The FDA sets DALs for many foods, but for those it does not it evaluates samples and decides on a case-by-case basis. Consider these two FDA definitions that underscore the importance of wire cloths, meshes and 3A certified strainers in food production.

  • Extraneous materials – “Any foreign matter in a product associated with objectionable conditions or practices in production, storage, or distribution. Includes: objectionable matter contributed by insects, rodents, and birds; decomposed material; and miscellaneous matter such as sand, soil, glass, rust, or other foreign substances.”

  • Foreign matter – “Objectionable matter such as sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc. Also includes the valueless parts of the raw plant material, such as stems.”

Food manufacturers are directed by the FDA to not use DALs as their standard for quality and that contaminant levels should be much lower. These are two examples of DALs, but a more extensive list is found here.

  • Frozen broccoli - Average of 60 or more aphids, thrips, and/or mites per 100 grams

  • Canned tomatoes - Five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots per 500 grams, two or more maggots per 500 grams

Prevent contamination with wire cloth

Woven wire cloth is used extensively in food handling. It is manufactured with mesh openings ranging anywhere from five inches to 20 microns. Strength, weight, durability, flow characteristics, heat and corrosion resistance are critical factors to consider when choosing a wire cloth material. Wire cloth is commonly woven from stainless steel wire due to its relatively low cost and high tensile strength.

In summary:

  • The FDA sets mandatory guidelines to protect the public’s food supply

  • FDA regulations restrict the level of acceptable food contaminants

  • Wire cloth, meshes and 3A certified strainers are an effective way to prevent, reduce and eliminate contaminants during food production

Newark Wire Cloth, a recognized leader in the wire cloth industry, manufactures off-the-shelf and custom woven wire cloth for any and every application – especially for food and beverage production. It has specialized in the fabrication of wire cloth parts and assemblies for the past 105 years. Contact them today to discuss how wire cloth can help improve the sanitation and hygiene of your food processing facility.