If anyone understands the value of cleanliness and sanitization, it’s the dairy industry. The risks associated with failing an inspection or having contaminated product are too high to take shortcuts on the right processing equipment and cleaning procedures.

The primary goal of the Food Safety Modernization Act was to shift the emphasis for food safety from being reactive to proactive, making prevention the new foundation. FSMA gives the FDA the authority to detain foods, order a recall and potentially shut down a facility. Therefore, it’s critically important to take preventive actions at every conceivable step of the process so there is no contamination in the first place.

The key is investing in the right equipment, and the motors that run that equipment, to support the processes happening throughout the plant and the cleanliness requirements of those processes. The three food sanitation zones have different cleanliness requirements; therefore, each is supported by different styles of industrial motor. 

Zone 1 is a high-hygiene area where equipment has direct contact with food. High-hygiene areas also create the best opportunity for bacterial contamination and need to be sanitized thoroughly with regularly scheduled cleanings, if not several times each shift.

Equipment in Zone 1 must be both intrinsically resistant to bacteria growth and capable of withstanding the most aggressive and most frequent washdowns.Adhering to intense washdown requirements means the equipment in these zones face 1450 PSI washes at specified angles with temperatures around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

These washdown requirements make IP69K-rated equipment ideal for Zone 1. The IP69K rating, the highest protection available, prevents ingress of dust and high temperature, high-pressure water, making motors with this certification ideal for use in conditions where equipment must be carefully sanitized. Not all seals can handle the pressure required to meet IP69K, though, so it’s important that motors operating in this area be specifically designed to withstand these aggressive and frequent cleaning methods.

Other essential features of motors operating in the high-hygiene zone are:

  • All stainless-steel components.
  • Encapsulated windings to withstand the high-pressure washdowns.
  • Dual O-rings to ensure watertight seal.
  • Fully welded individual feet with no food collection points.
  • Fully welded, polished, rotatable conduit boxes to ensure no water ingress.
  • Smooth, nonporous, rounded surfaces to prevent water pooling and bacteria growth.
  • Smooth, polished hardware to prohibit bacteria collection.
  • Nameplates laser-etched directly onto the motor housing so food and contaminants cannot get underneath.
  • Condensation drains on each end.

Zone 2 is a medium-hygiene area where equipment needs at least some kind of washdown, but not necessarily high-pressure or aggressive cleaning.

Painted washdown motors work well in Zone 2 environments. In this zone, motors might be impacted by splatter, particles or liquid; however, these motors are not located over the food source.

Here, motors typically have neoprene gaskets, epoxy paints, lip seals, and a neoprene shaft slinger on the shaft. The motors must be cleanable, but they do not require the more robust stainless-steel, rounded-surface designs. Even a paint-free design can work quite well in these applications.

Zone 3 is primarily a dry environment or no-food-contact zone. The motors in this zone may not need protection from high-pressure washdowns, but they are still subject to normal wear and tear and environmental impact such as dirt and dust. Consider equipment with features that provide dust ingress protection in Zone 3.

To the risk-averse, it may seem that using stainless-steel motors throughout the facility is the safest thing to do. However, in many cases, that would be expensive and unnecessary.

Instead, look critically at each area in your plant to match the sanitation requirements to your motor options. That analysis will allow you to maintain food safe practices while running your operation in the most efficient and practical way.