Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Enhancing Food Quality and Safety: Exploring the Role of Plant Coatings

by on July 18, 2023


In the world of food production, maintaining the quality and safety of products is paramount. One important aspect of ensuring the longevity and freshness of food items lies in the use of plant coatings. These natural coatings provide a protective barrier that helps preserve and enhance the quality of fruits and vegetables. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of food plant coatings, their benefits, and their contribution to creating a more sustainable food industry.

What are Food Plant Coatings?

Food plant coatings, also known as edible coatings or plant-based coatings, are thin layers applied to the surface of fruits, vegetables, and other food products. These coatings are typically derived from natural materials, such as plant-based biopolymers, waxes, proteins, and lipids. The main purpose of these coatings is to act as a barrier between the food item and the external environment, providing a protective shield against moisture loss, oxidation, microbial growth, and physical damage.

Benefits of Food Plant Coatings

1. Prolonged Shelf Life: One of the primary advantages of plant coatings is their ability to extend the shelf life of fresh produce. By reducing water loss and controlling gas exchange, these coatings slow down the natural processes of decay and spoilage, preserving the quality and nutritional content of fruits and vegetables for a longer period.

2. Enhanced Appearance: Edible coatings can improve the visual appeal of fruits and vegetables, making them more attractive to consumers. They create a glossy or matte finish, giving the produce a fresher and more vibrant appearance. This aesthetic enhancement can contribute to increased consumer interest and reduced food waste.

3. Reduced Post-Harvest Losses: By acting as a physical barrier, plant coatings protect crops from damage during transportation and handling, reducing post-harvest losses. Coatings can prevent bruising, abrasions, and other physical injuries to the produce, leading to higher market value and less waste.

4. Sustainable Alternative: Food plant coatings offer a sustainable alternative to synthetic coatings and packaging materials, which may contain harmful chemicals and generate non-biodegradable waste. Plant-based coatings are renewable, biodegradable, and pose minimal health risks, making them an environmentally friendly choice.

Applications of Food Plant Coatings

While many food items can benefit from plant coatings, some particular applications stand out:

1. Fruits and Vegetables: Coatings can be applied to a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more. These coatings help preserve their freshness, flavor, and texture, extending their marketability and reducing waste.

2. Nuts and Seeds: Edible coatings can be used to improve the storability and quality of nuts and seeds. They prevent rancidity and maintain their crispness, making them more appealing and reducing the need for preservatives.

3. Bakery and Confectionery: Plant coatings can also be used in bakery and confectionery products. They provide a protective layer for bread, pastry, and confectionery items, extending their shelf life while maintaining their desired texture and appearance.

Food plant coatings offer an innovative and sustainable solution for improving food quality, safety, and shelf life. These natural coatings help reduce post-harvest losses, enhance the visual appeal of produce, and contribute to a more environmentally friendly food industry. As consumers increasingly seek fresher and more sustainable options, plant coatings present an exciting opportunity to meet these demands while promoting food waste reduction and preserving nutritional integrity.

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Reshaping Processing Plants Using Polyurea

With news of more food processing facilities pulling product off the market and having to shut down due to possible contamination from Listeria Monocytogenes, the concern of plant sanitation, as well as style and building structures, are at the forefront of the agenda for those in the industry.

At issue are food and meat processing plants located in aging industrial buildings with extensive ware and tear, in addition to ideal angled building. In these plants, walls and ceilings are typically built with angled steel, i-beams, concrete block, interlocking metal and fiberglass panels, double-t ceilings and tiles with concrete grout.

This supplies a virtual breeding ground for standing water, dirt, dust, mold, and pathogens such as Listeria, E. Coli, and Salmonella. With many fractures, pits, and seams, plants are at danger in spite of aggressive power cleaning and chemical sanitation strategies.

Plant Recalls from Listeria
The fallout from a public recall due to Listeria extends well beyond lost earnings and extended plant shutdown as well as a decrease in overall business value. Lawsuits, due to customer health problem and even death, along with the disastrous impact to the brand name's credibility, can put a processor out of service.

The difficulty with Listeria is that it is proficient at evading detection. It can aerosolize or connect to equipment and individuals, and will prosper in cold temperatures. As an outcome, it is difficult to control in the processing environment. To fight this pathogen, lots of centers depend on a robust sanitation program to avoid Listeria from getting in or polluting the environment. In addition, many processors participate in continuous environmental sampling programs to keep track of the efficacy of those efforts.

If any bacteria or contamination is discovered, called "testing hot," it can lead to an instant shutdown. Closing down a food processing plant that is running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, can cost the processor millions in lost profits. There is also the danger of fines by the USDA for recurring violations.

In the majority of instances, business just react to a positive test by performing magnified cleaning and sanitization. Once the company's follow-up tasting of the affected websites is negative, the problem is normally thought about to be dealt with.

In addition to issues about bacteria, contamination likewise comes from facility maintenance concerns, such as breaking paint, spalled and broken concrete, and areas in the walls and ceilings that can gather dust, dirt, mold and other contaminants.

Perpetual Cleansing, Painting
Until now, the expensive and labor heavy solution was merely to clean up more frequently and mitigate the issues utilizing FRP panels or layer upon layer of paint to try to create a cleanable surface.

The aggressive cleaning agents like bleach and cleaning agents and heavy high pressure power cleaning cycles take a heavy toll on the paints, epoxies, concrete, fiberglass and metal surfaces eventually use them away until they need a total replacement, or even worse, they jeopardize a plant shutdown and or fines.

This is an extremely costly, labor-intensive program that duplicates itself in perpetuity at practically every food processing plant throughout the nation.

To resolve this issue, new patented techniques are being used to deliver a complete rehabilitation of the walls and ceilings, typically throughout planned maintenance weekends.

Many other coatings take 1-4 days just to treat, which is too long when you require to get the plant back online. Polyurea cures within minutes. Additionally, the space is "reshaped" through this procedure so just smooth, curved lines stay to remove areas where water, dirt, grime or pathogens can collect.

Among the key elements of the industrial process is application of an incredibly fast curing, pure polyurea coating designed for usage in food processing plants. Given that the material is spray used, it can be applied quickly by qualified applicators and constructed up to any required thickness and formed into the modified wall and ceiling design. Polyurea is the only coating system readily available that can create a monolithic surface area in the brief time frame needed to minimize plant downtime.

The majority of other coatings take 1-4 days simply to cure, which is too long when you need to get the plant back online.

Companies makes use of a special, private label formulation of pure polyurea for food contact facilities from ArmorThane, a worldwide provider of high-performance polyurea coatings, liners and joint sealants for a wide variety of industrial environments. The company uses two systems that are third-party ranked for FDA Direct Food contact.

Due to the aggressive nature of plant wash downs, a custom-made polyurea topcoat is required to finish the process., The final topcoat creates a very slick surface, making it difficult for standing water, dust, dirt, or bacteria to take hold. To finish all this work, Companies deal with the food centers to strategize and optimally time rehabilitation operations.

Before any coatings are used, there are several actions to restore an aging food facility., No quantity of cleansing will effectively prepare a surface that needs repair. So the initial step is to resolve any areas with spalled or split concrete, chipping and peeling paint, or heavy corrosion.

The next action is an intensive cleaning process to remove grease and gunk and other surface area contaminants that build-up as an outcome of meat processing, cooking, and basic facility maintenance. This involves using specially authorized wash down options and self-contained high powered water blasting techniques. All holes, voids, joints, and penetrations are filled, along with additional adjustments for the reshaping. A combination of concrete and molded foam products are utilized to transition any flat surface areas from 90 degrees to 45 degrees to avoid standing water from accumulating.

These areas usually consist of the cove joint from wall to floor, steel I beam bases, welded and frame bolted angle iron, and gaps in the existing construction or wall/ceiling fascia. Standing water is one of the numerous contributing aspects for Listeria and other pathogens, in addition to mold and corrosion. Finally, every piece of devices, pipe, flooring, and other exposed locations must be wrapped in plastic or covered prior to spraying starts.

In numerous applications, such as the within of big tanks, sprayed polyurea is not required to be cosmetically appealing.

For food processors in aging centers this type of total interior wall and ceiling rehabilitation-- regardless of the surface or substrate and level of disrepair-- might be the quickest method to break the cycle of constant degeneration and ongoing repair, while decreasing danger of pathogen-based item recalls.