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How-to Advice from Durall Experts

 How epoxy coatings can help meet 3-A sanitation standards

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Title 21, Sec. 110.20, Part B addresses Buildings and Facilities. The first standards known commonly as "3-A Standards" were introduced in the 1920s for milk pipe fittings. Three groups, professional sanitarians, equipment fabricators, and processors joined together to develop sanitation standards. These groups included the forerunners of today’s associations that represent these interest groups, including the International Association for Food Protection, the Food Processing Suppliers Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the American Dairy Products Institute. Today, these interested parties compose the 3-A Administrative Symbol Council along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA.

3-A Sanitary Standards specify the criteria for the design and fabrication of equipment that comes into contact with food. Specifically, the goal of 3-A Sanitary Standards is to protect food from contamination and ensure that all product contact surfaces can be mechanically cleaned and be dismantled easily for manual cleaning or inspection.

Food production facilites are subject to inspection for general sanitary design and installation. Inspections are routinely conducted under the jurisdiction of federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. 3-A standards serve as important references for state and federal regulatory authorities. In addition, 3-A standards have been adopted into some state regulatory codes.

The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)/Food and Drug Administration approves use of the 3-A Symbol on dairy and food equipment for three important purposes:

  • Assures processors that equipment meets sanitary standards

  • Provides accepted criteria to equipment manufacturers for sanitary design

  • Establishes guidelines for uniform evaluation and compliance by sanitarians.

Epoxy coatings are included as an acceptable type of treatment and coating.

Every 3-A Sanitary Standard includes a materials section which describes coatings that are acceptable for product contact and those for nonproduct contact. Sanitary specifications dictate allowed materials, with the ultimate criteria being based on the environment of intended use. Properly cured epoxy coatings have been found to be accepted materials suitable for sanitary application, are durable, and are nontoxic. The benchmark for materials is the AISI 300. Rubber and rubber-like materials, as well as plastics like epoxy coatings, are the most common material exceptions to stainless steel. Specific 3-A Sanitary Standards have been developed for rubber, rubber-like, and plastic materials. Thus, whenever these materials are used in product contact areas, they must conform to these materials standards.

Epoxy coatings can be helpful in meeting smoothness requirements addressed by the 3-A Sanitary Standards. These standards specify fabrication criteria for equipment to be cleanable and to preclude the contamination of the product. The Sanitary criteria always include surface finish requirements, generally equivalent to or smoother than a 32 µin. (0.8 µm) radius, that is free from imperfections such as pits, folds, and crevices.

The integrity of sealed product contact and nonproduct contact surfaces must not be compromised. In the development of 3-A standards, the usual procedure is to include verbiage in the Appendix that the 32 µin. (0.8 µm) Radius smoothness is generally achieved by provision of a No. 4 finish. The Format and Style Manual details the minimum radii requirements for product contact surfaces. For some equipment, 1/4 in. may be specified as the normative minimum radius, but usually with certain exceptions having lesser specified radii. For other equipment, the appropriate normative radius might be 1/8 in., again with some exceptions. Sharp internal angles are hard to clean; the use of epoxy coatings can help create gently curved corners making cleaning much easier.

For a detailed quote of materials needed to create smooth epoxy surface coatings, please visit our free cost analysis page at www.concrete-floor-coatings.com/costanalysis.aspx

For more information, contact Chris Biesanz at chris@durallmfg.com or phone 1-800-466-8910 or 952-888-1488 (24/7).

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