floor

Analysis: Flooring for the Food & Beverage industry 

Industrial facilities of all kinds are required to adhere to hygiene requirements for their flooring, but arguably, none more so than the food and beverage (F&B) industry, where food and beverages are prepared.  

Not only must the floors reach strict hygiene standards, but they must also be functional and withstand exposure to moisture, temperature and chemical attacks. 

HACCP hygiene 

Working surfaces and floors are under intense scrutiny in the F&B industry. The system that controls the quality of these areas, the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), ensures that businesses involved with food preparation adhere to the international benchmark of food safety management. 

Following a directive from the South African government, the F&B industry must strictly follow the HACCP guidelines or risk defaulting on the stringently imposed regulations. According to the guidelines, flooring needs to maintain a seamless and impervious finish, even when subject to the harsh day-to-day environment. 

Flooring

Klein Constantia Winery application of the Sikafloor®-20 PurCem.

Essential requirements of working surfaces (including flooring): 

  • All surfaces must be easy to clean and sterilise. 
  • Aesthetics must be pleasing and surface finishes light in colour. 
  • Preparation and processing areas must be non-slip under wet conditions.
  • Surfaces must be able to withstand aggressive cleaning and sterilising regimes, including steam cleaning.
  • Floor surfaces must be laid to ensure effective drainage. 
  • Floor surfaces must be tough, durable and able to withstand foot traffic and steel-wheeled trolleys. 
  • Surfaces must be non-staining, non-dusting and biologically inert. 
  • Vertical and horizontal interfaces need to be seamless. 
  • Drains and sumps need to be lined and allow free flow of spillage. 

What is food-safe flooring? 

A hygienic environment largely comes down to how food and beverage processing and manufacturing facilities are built. One of the key factors to incorporate into a well-designed and low-risk food and beverage plant is a hygienic floor. 

Food-safe flooring refers to floor coatings that have features to prevent microbial growth and aid ease of cleaning. These pathogenic microbes can jeopardise the safety of food and become a health risk for employees and customers alike. The flooring system must be hygienic to the highest standard and withstand the industry’s extreme environments.  

These are some of the factors to look for when you are evaluating different food-safe flooring options: 

Moisture tolerance 

Floors in the F&B industry are exposed to all kinds of food by-products, which can often lead to health risks and floors deteriorating because of ongoing exposure to moisture. 

Slopes are needed to move liquid across the floor to a drain by gravity. Meanwhile, slip-resistance requires surface roughness, which can impede the flow of liquid towards a drain. Steeper falls increase the gravitation effect but may create problems underfoot.  

There are no standards for falls, but food industry norms suggest ratios between 1:100 and 1:80, and as much as 1:50 in free-draining floors. Notwithstanding, a textured surface may require a higher fall to allow fluids to drain naturally. 

Flooring

Credit Technical Finishes

Durability and performance 

Food-processing factories use heavy equipment and machinery to process huge quantities of raw materials.  

Mechanical shocks and impacts, wear, abrasion, exposure to chemical agents, thermal shocks, high-point loads and handcarts and forklifts are examples of the many stresses affecting floors in a food-processing plant. Falls of heavy objects, knives, hooks or other sharp objects can also damage the floor. 

The greater the thickness of the floor, the greater its ability to provide good resistance to these and other assaults. The recommended thickness will depend on a detailed assessment of the type and magnitude of specific stresses that the floor will encounter.  

For resin-based flooring in a food-processing facility, a thickness of 3mm is the minimum, but a thickness of 6mm or more is better, especially in wet areas. For tiles, the thickness typically ranges anywhere from approximately 8,5 to 20mm, but a minimum of 12mm will protect any high-load areas. 

Slip resistance 

While there is a need for seamless, smooth surfaces, this needs to be balanced out by reducing the risk of slips and falls, which can endanger employees and customers. Better slip resistance requires greater surface roughness – however, this makes the floor more difficult to clean.  

The trade-off between the two is determined by what is happening on the floor, the cleaning regime and the type of contaminants that are present. 

The degree of slip resistance needed will likely vary from one part of the facility to another. For instance, processing and cooking areas laden with oil and moisture will have greater demands than drier packaging and dispatch areas. There are several tools available that can help producers define the level of slip resistance they need, including the Pendulum Tester (EN 13036-4) and the Ramp Test (DIN 51130).  

Thermal resistance 

Extreme temperature swings are not surprising in F&B facilities and exert significant stresses on a floor. 

The temperature of the floor adjacent to a freezer may range from 0°C or below to an ambient 21°C or higher if it is near an oven. The flooring system must be able to function in both conditions. What is more difficult to deal with, is the thermal shock, which is caused by a sudden and large change in temperature – up to 100°C or more and then back again, in a few minutes or even seconds. 

Thermal shocks can be caused by high temperature spills from cooking, washing and the cleaning of vessels and pans. They can also occur from hot cleaning-in-place (CIP) fluids and hot-water rinses that are drained from production equipment and onto the floor after high-temperature cleaning and sanitation. 

Thermal shocks can cause the flooring system to crack and, in some cases, delaminate. To prevent this, the floor should have a thermal expansion coefficient close to that of the concrete substrate below, good cohesive strength and a low modulus of elasticity.  

The thickness of the floor also plays an important part. The top layer should be no less than 9mm thick for water or chemical discharges from +90°C and higher temperatures. 

Chemical resistance 

F&B flooring facilities see a lot of spills daily, some relatively harmless and some harmful. It is therefore vital that flooring solutions can withstand regular spillage without corroding. When it comes to chemical resistance, different floor coatings react differently to the type, concentration, temperature and exposure duration, and should be assessed individually. 

Some hazards are part of normal production, including lactic, citric and acetic acids, blood, wet sugar, oils, fats, greases and others. It’s important to note that even if the amounts of these compounds are relatively low, evaporation can increase their concentration and corrosive properties.  

Among the most challenging are phosphoric or nitric acids, and caustic or chlorine solutions used to clean production equipment, floors and walls. 

Time required for application 

In the fast-paced food industry environment, there is a need for flooring solutions that don’t take away too much time from productivity. A system that takes too long to cure may cost the business more money than what was bargained for.  

A fast-curing solution that meets the F&B environment’s needs with minimal disruption is the best solution. Low-odour solutions may also be required in unventilated freezer rooms. 

The polyurethane advantage 

 Polyurethane flooring offers impressive features that are especially relevant to F&B manufacturing applications. Its smooth and seamless finish is easy to clean and prevents the growth of bacteria. Due to the inherent flexibility and unique molecular construction of polyurethane, it can handle extreme temperature fluctuations, expanding and contracting with temperature changes without becoming damaged. 

Polyurethane floors offer exceptional chemical resistance, withstanding caustic chemicals and the harsh cleaning agents and sanitising chemicals required in the daily cleaning processes of food and beverage manufacturing facilities. Somewhat rubbery, the texture of polyurethane flooring is naturally slip resistant, which is a critical feature for a frequent spill environment. 

Certain polyurethane flooring options contain antimicrobial silver ion technology that causes catastrophic disruptions to bacterial vital functions and fatal structural damage to bacterial cell-wall membranes. With silver ions present, bacteria cannot perform critical functions such as protein synthesis, cell division or DNA replication. Silver ions also inhibit viral and fungal growth. 

MMA flooring 

An alternative option is methyl methacrylate (MMA) flooring systems. MMA is a resin-based flooring solution that can cure in under two hours, reducing downtime to a minimum. The flooring may be installed in conditions that range from -30oC to +35oC and are UV stable. Additives with antibacterial characteristics can also be used if more defence is required, and both slip resistance and coating thickness may be altered. 

Issue: Identifying the specific requirements for industrial flooring in the food and beverage industry. 

Solution: Polyurethane floor coatings are well suited to the needs of this industry, offering both a hygienic and functional solution. 

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.robex.co.za/, https://zaf.sika.com/en/ and https://technicalfinishes.com for the information in this editorial. 

 

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