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Minimizing microplastics in the food processing line

This article was originally published on JBT’s Plant-based Protein Blog.

Scientists have recognized plastic pollution as an environmental problem for a long time, but recently it has increased substantially and become more urgent to manage. Besides the visible plastic pollution, like bags and bottles, the focus also has come on the invisible form – the microplastic particles. 

The study of microplastic contamination of food products and its impact on human food safety is an emerging field, but a lot is still unknown. Ingesting microplastics into the human body constitutes a probable hazard. For the food processing industry, the use of plastic parts that will wear down must be avoided in the food zone. 

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic material that vary greatly despite their similarity of being very small in size. The smallest parts are not visible to the naked eye. Their composition can be any kind of plastic material, such as polyethylene (PE), polybutylene succinate (PBS), or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They can also have different shapes, colors, sizes, and densities.

The small pieces of plastic can be grouped into primary and secondary microplastics based on where they come from before they end up in nature. Primary microplastics are already tiny when disposed of, coming from cosmetic products and various industries. Secondary microplastics come from larger pieces of plastic such as bags, bottles, and fishing nets that are disposed of and are subjected to weathering and then fragment into micro and nano plastics. Secondary microplastics account for most of those found in the oceans, ingested by marine animals.

Minimizing plastic usage in freezers: the Frigoscandia GYRoCOMPACT

Chemical contaminants
Microplastics may act as vehicles or carriers for environmental contaminants and other chemicals added during manufacturing. Chemicals such as styrene, toxic metals, phthalates, and bisphenol A, may be absorbed on the surface of microplastics and may act as “substrates.” These pollutants and additives can be transferred from ingested microplastics to animal tissues and cause impairment of crucial body functions.

Food and beverage operators need robust and accurate characterization tools and methodologies to understand the scale of microplastic contamination and reduce consumer exposure. Taking a proactive stance on microplastics is also a positive step from a brand reputation perspective.

Minimizing risk
Microplastics can also originate from pieces in the food processing equipment. Using plastics in moving parts in sections that are in direct contact with the food increases the risk for contamination. As the parts are exposed to wear and tear, it can generate microplastics directly in food zone 1.

Conventional spiral freezers, for example, are based on plastic wear strips to achieve acceptable friction. When the belt moves alongside the drum on plastic-coated guides, the friction wears on the plastic and releases small microscopical parts. These wear strips has a typical acceptable wear of 1-2 mm over 20,000-30,000 hours of operation. A conventional 35 tier 700 mm wide belt spiral freezer has a total length of 1,250 m belt wear strips in tier carriers. The total area with 14 mm wear surface is 18 dm2. That gives a total volume of worn off plastic (1.5 mm wear) equivalent to 27 liters of microplastic, not counting wear strips in center drum.

Besides the apparent hazard, microplastic may also act as a vehicle or carrier for chemicals. That means that the processed ingredients also can get contaminated with oil from the machine and create black spots on the food. With this in mind, JBT designed the Frigoscandia GYRoCOMPACT® self-stacking freezer. Its unique Self-Stacking stainless steel mesh belt has no plastic parts in the food zone that can generate microplastics.

The GYRoCOMPACT has 25 meters of belt wear strips which is only 2% compared to the 1,250 m belt wear strips of the conventional spiral freezer. With the industry’s only self-contained 100% cleanable freezing zone, ease of accessibility throughout the enclosure, and easy evaporator access offering exceptional cleanability, it provides you with the ultimate performance in product hygiene.

At JBT, we know that the design of food processing equipment is essential for food safety. That’s why we always design to minimize all unnecessary surfaces and use as little material as possible to avoid dirt traps. We call it Hygiene by Design, and it is crucial in food zone 1, where the equipment has direct physical contact with the products. We also have specialists just focusing on reducing the use of unwanted materials like plastics.

JBT electrically-heated ovens: aiding access to renewable energy sources

It probably goes without saying that Europe – and indeed much of world – is facing an uncertain future when it comes to energy sources. Turmoil, war and concerns over climate change, are prompting moves by countries to become less dependent on fossil fuels, such as gas, oil and coal. But for food processors who have traditionally powered ovens using these fuels, the situation presents a dilemma on how to move to more renewable sources.

JBT’s range of electrically-heated ovens provide an answer. Adapted to enable plug-in access to renewable energy sources, the JBT range – which includes the Stein TwinDrum Spiral Oven and M-Fryer, the Double D Revoband Continuous Protein Oven, and the Formcook Contact and Combi Cookers – provides customers with greater security during unpredictable times.

JBT Stein TwinDrum 600 Spiral Oven from JBT.

“Europe wants to become less dependent on oil, gas and coal, and customers putting in new equipment are increasingly requesting machines capable of running on renewable energy,” explains Bart Kivits, JBT’s Manager for Coating and Cooking Applications. “This is not just environmentally-sound, it’s also investing in the long-term capability of operating equipment. With the situation over gas uncertain, electrically-heated ovens provide more security for the future.”

Sustainable options
Of course, electrically-heated ovens are not the only sustainable option offered by JBT. With the cost of cooking oil skyrocketing over recent months, JBT’s innovative frying solutions have been attracting increasing interest from food processors.

Due to having a relatively small volume compared to the size of the machine, the Stein M-Fryer uses up to 20% less cooking oil in the tank than competitor systems, meaning customers can make significant savings while generating far less waste due to oil spoilage. “With the price of cooking oil rising, customers can save a lot of money by using the M-Fryer,” says Kivits. “Plus, if you have much less oil inside the fryer, then the oil life tends to be longer.”

The Dry Fry System
The cost of cooking oil has also prompted an increasing number of enquiries about JBT’s Dry Fry solutions, which radically reduces oil usage and provides a healthier means of frying foods. 

Designed to process a wide range of healthier food options while maintaining a ‘just fried’ taste and appearance, the Dry-Fry uses up to 50% less oil to cook battered and breaded products, as well as meatballs, plant-based and vegetarian foods. Perhaps even more significantly, the Dry-Fry enables the use of a far wider range of frying ingredients, including healthier alternatives such as olive oil, which are not fit for a deep frying process.

LEARN MORE about JBT’s electrically-heated oven concept and the Dry Fry System

Meeting the sustainability challenge

This article was originally published in the April 2022 edition of FoodChain Magazine.

Today’s protein processors arguably face the perfect storm. Consumer pressure on achieving healthier eating options and more environmentally-friendly production is ever increasing, while energy costs are rising. Torbjörn Persson, JBT’s Director of Value Stream & Global Product Line for Spiral Freezers, outlines how JBT can help protein companies meet the challenge. 

Maximizing yield, minimizing waste and increasing product shelf-life is not just positive from a sustainability point of view, it also makes sound financial sense, making it increasingly important across the global food industry. This is the thinking behind a range of internal and external initiatives launched by JBT aimed at being part of the long-term solution for the industry, which were recognized in 2021 with EcoVadis’s Bronze Sustainability Medal.

In an era of rising populations and increasing pressure on the global food and agriculture system, practical solutions are urgently needed to help producers and processors make better use of the world’s precious resources. Responding to the challenges, JBT has launched ambitious sustainability initiatives aimed at working hand-in-hand with customers to achieve a more efficient food industry worldwide.

Among other achievements, JBT in 2010 set a goal to reduce energy intensity by 25% by the year 2020 through a partnership with the US Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program. JBT not only met the goal in 2019, but surpassed it; reducing the energy intensity in U.S. operations by 31% and globally by 28%.

However, JBT’s efforts have not just been limited to North America. Interest in becoming more sustainable combined with the necessity to achieve energy savings has grown substantially across the UK and indeed all of Europe over recent years, driven by consumers and processors alike, and this is reflected in some of the most recent solutions launched by JBT.

Plug directly into the grid: the Stein electric TwinDrum Spiral Oven

A prime example of this is the new, electric Stein TwinDrum™ Spiral Oven: a solution which gives processors the ability to deliver carbon-free production through sustainable energy sources. Unlike previous versions, the electric TwinDrum’s design means customers can benefit from innovative, two-tier cooking without having to invest in large-scale heating systems by being able to plug directly into the grid and forego oil and gas-heated alternatives.

The electric heater is fitted into the machine so it can be easily accessed for cleaning and maintenance, while having fixed wiring means better reliability. Electric heating also gives processors the ability to use renewable sources of energy that can help them to achieve their environmental goals or commitments.

The Frigoscandia GYRoCOMPACT® 70 meanwhile is a new solution delivers advances in food safety, performance and space optimisation. Developed using input gathered from customers in Europe and North America, the GC70 takes all the best elements of the existing GYRoCOMPACT range, but with a new focus on achieving greater capacity combined with a reduced footprint.

In fact, the GC70 features an increased capacity of up to 20% over a smaller area. To further enhance its sustainable credentials, the freezer’s oil consumption has been reduced by up to 75%, while system innovations provide enhanced performance and efficiency.

These are just two examples of the work on sustainability that JBT is carrying out across its protein business, and many more are on the horizon in the months and years ahead.

JBT is exhibiting at Seafood Processing Global 2022 in Hall 3, Stand 3GG201 at Fira Barcelona Gran Via Venue, Barcelona, Spain until April 28, 2022 and at Anuga FoodTec 2022 in Hall 6.1, Stand D030 – F049 at Koelnmesse GmbH, Cologne, Germany until April 29, 2022.

CLICK HERE to meet us in person!

Développement durable : aider les clients à atteindre les objectifs fixés pour 2022

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La capacité de JBT à fournir des solutions de production durables et décarbonées sera l’un des messages clés délivrés aux clients lors du Salon CFIA 2022 Rennes du 8 au 10 mars 2022. De plus, JBT présentera des systèmes sur mesure pour les aliments d’origine végétale pour permettre aux transformateurs de tirer parti d’une tendance qui prend de l’essor en Europe.

L’intérêt pour le développement durable, combiné à la nécessité de réaliser des économies d’énergie, s’est considérablement accru en France et dans toute l’Europe ces dernières années, sous l’impulsion des consommateurs et des transformateurs. 

Lors de sa participation au Salon CFIA, JBT affichera sa capacité à fournir une production décarbonée sous la forme du nouveau four électrique TwinDrum, une solution qui permet aux transformateurs d’utiliser des sources d’énergie durables. Autre élément clé de la stratégie de JBT en faveur du développement durable, l’accent accordé à l’accroissement de la capacité de l’usine de plus petite taille. Exemple clé de cette stratégie : le GYRoCOMPACT GC70 de Frigoscandia, une solution qui apporte durabilité tout en augmentant la capacité dans un espace plus petit. 

Alternatives à la viande
L’alimentation végétalienne est une autre tendance importante sur le marché français, avec un nombre toujours croissant de demandes d’alternatives à la viande, selon Philippe Barillet, directeur des ventes de JBT pour la France et la Belgique. « J’estime qu’entre 50 et 70 % de nos clients recherchent au moins une alternative végétalienne », confie-t-il. 

Pour aider les clients à trouver la solution végétale qui leur convient le mieux, M. Barillet explique que JBT travaille en étroite collaboration avec ses clients dans ses centres de recherche et de technologie internationaux

La plateforme d’optimisation des performances basée sur le cloud iOPS de JBT, une technologie sécurisée d’analyse du big data qui recueille et analyse les performances des équipements et des processus de JBT en temps réel, constitue le point d’orgue. « iOPS rassemble les données de toutes les machines connectées pour fournir des données de production et de service directement sur le téléphone du client », ajoute M. Barillet.

JBT sera présent au Salon CFIA 2022 Rennes du 8 au 10 mars 2022, au stand B7, Hall 7 du Parc Expo Rennes Aéroport

Sustainability: helping customers meet goals at CFIA 2022

Lisez cet article en Français

JBT’s ability to provide sustainable production solutions will be one of the key messages delivered to customers at CFIA 2022, the annual France-based trade exhibition, which takes place in Rennes from March 8-10, 2022. More than this, JBT will highlight tailored systems for plant-based foods; enabling processors to take advantage of a trend that is increasing in importance across Europe.

Interest in becoming more sustainable combined with the necessity to achieve energy savings has grown substantially across France and indeed all of Europe over recent years, driven by consumers and processors alike. 

One of the main themes of JBT’s participation at CFIA will be the ability to deliver carbon-free production in the form of the new Electric TwinDrum™ Oven; a solution which gives processors the opportunity to use sustainable energy sources. Another key element of the JBT sustainability strategy is a focus on achieving greater capacity within a smaller factory footprint. A key example of this strategy is the Frigoscandia GYRoCOMPACT GC70; a solution which promotes improved sustainability by boosting capacity within a smaller space. 

Offering a new way to heat: the JBT Stein electric TwinDrum oven

Meat-alternatives
Plant-based foods is another significant trend within the French market, with an ever increasing amount of enquiries for meat alternatives, according to Philippe Barillet, JBT’s Sales Manager for France and Belgium. “I would estimate between 50-70% of our customers are looking for at least one plant-based alternative, he says. 

To help customers find the plant-based solution which functions best for them, Barillet says JBT works closely with customers at its global Research & Technology Centres

Bringing all this together is JBT’s unrivalled cloud-based performance optimization platform iOPS, a secure big data analytics technology that gathers and analyzes JBT equipment and process performance in real time. “iOPS gathers together data from all connected machines and can deliver production and service data directly to customer’s phone,” Barillet adds.

JBT will be exhibiting at CFIA 2022 in Rennes, France from March 8-10, 2022 at Stand #B7, Hall 7 at the Parc Expo, Rennes Airport

READ MORE about JBT and Plant-based foods

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