The Right Floor is Imperative to Maintaining Health Standards in the Food Preparation Industry
The Food Preparation Industry is a mad jumble of acronyms and legislation that is often hard to keep up with.
Because of the nature of the products they produce, food processing plants are under closer scrutiny by regulators than many other industries. In warehouses and light industrial areas, and in industries not involved with consumable products, having uncoated concrete floors may be a perfectly acceptable choice. But in food and beverage plants, where cleanliness and purity are paramount, it is non-negotiable that concrete floors be covered with an appropriate protective coating, very often provided by seamless, hygienic floor coating system.
The floor of a food processing facility is typically exposed to all sorts of food by products, including fats, hot oils, blood, sugar solutions, and natural food acids. Some of these substances can cause serious damage to concrete because of their corrosive nature. In addition, these contaminants can infiltrate uncoated concrete, resulting in uncontrolled growth of bacteria, ultimately degrading the processed food’s purity.
Understanding the Different Systems
Being armed with an understanding of the different coatings and their capabilities is one part of selecting the right coating for the job, but there are other considerations as well, ranging from government regulations to food taste and odour considerations.
Food processing facilities are often very damp, sometimes cool or even cold, and sometimes hot, all in a typical day. The selected coating must be able to be installed under any and all of these conditions. There are specialty coatings that have the ability to cure even under this unusually broad range of conditions. Urethane modified cementitious flooring systems, for example, can perform in steam heat as well as freezing or below zero temperatures. Some of these systems also offer a rapid return to service which could be critical to plant operations.
High-solid epoxies provide outstanding protection against acids and alkalis. Fast-drying, odorless epoxy mastics, epoxy primer sealers and surfacers are among the formulations currently available. These coatings offer a number of key benefits including outstanding adhesion; an excellent ability to withstand abrasive cleaning procedures and cleaning chemicals; fast curing properties for minimized downtime of the area being treated; plus compatibility with textured, anti-slip additives. Additionally, high-solids formulations are low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Epoxies may be blended with aggregates such as marble or quartz, particularly for non-processing areas, such as lobbies and entryways, where a clean, well-maintained look is part of an overall plan regarding company image. These coatings are typically trowel-applied, two-component systems. A wide variety of textures and colors may be achieved by broadcasting aggregates to create non-slip or skid-resistant floors.
When a rapid return to service is one of the paramount factors in order to minimize plant downtime, 100% solids epoxies are a wise choice for coating floors. Many operators of meat processing facilities select 100% epoxy coatings because these coatings offer strong bonding characteristics, resistance to thermal and mechanical shock, and the ability to endure frequent cleaning with hot water at high pressure. They also may be used in areas where highly acidic products are processed.
Polyurethane coatings continue to be popular for flooring applications in the food industry. These coatings typically come in slurry form and tend to be somewhat more costly up front, but their service life often outlasts other product categories. In fact, these systems are making significant gains on epoxy and vinyl ester flooring systems in many meat and poultry plants.
Urethane cement slurry and mortar systems provide superior resistance to thermal cycling when compared to epoxy and vinyl ester coatings in addition to providing excellent long-lasting performance. They also have very low odour during application and have a seamless, easy-to-clean surface when dry.
Another advantage provided by these mortar systems are the decorative choices available. Depending on the manufacturer, customers can request coloured quartz which can be broadcast into the slurry. The quartz is used in place of silica sand is sealed with a protective clear epoxy or urethane topcoat. Other aggregates can also be used add texture.
Yet another factor in selecting a floor coating for a food processing facility involves application conditions. While these issues are typically not relevant for installation of floors and coatings in new facilities, they are indeed germane when updating or retrofitting an existing facility.
Antiskid Industries are a West Australian based company specialising in creative concepts and designs for epoxy resin flooring, slip resistant flooring products and floor surfaces for the food industry. We are the leading applicator of epoxy resin surfacing solutions for private, commercial and industrial floors.