Five things to consider before validating your thermal processes during COVID-19

Five things to consider before validating your thermal processes during COVID-19

27 November 2020 | David Whittaker, Process Innovation Lead

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted food businesses in many ways, one of which being the impact on profits. As would be expected with a pandemic and a country entering recession, many manufacturer’s profit margins are being squeezed – especially as they continue to look for ways to offer competitive prices.

As a food business operator, when needing to validate your thermal processes it would be tempting to opt for the cheapest or simplest proposal, which is understandable in the current climate. However, as these tests are intended to ensure food safety, the experience of the specialists who conduct them is as fundamental as the choice of processing equipment. Further still, we’re currently living through a time when food safety is at the top of the consumer’s mind, as confirmed by a recent worldwide study by Lloyd’s Register. In the global survey, two thirds of consumers were found to worry about the safety of the food they eat, with more than three-quarters of Chinese consumers changing their consumption habits following the coronavirus pandemic. From this it’s clear that ensuring the food you manufacture is safe has never been more important.

Thermal processing remotely during COVID-19

During the pandemic, to reduce the need of having those not employed by your business on your premises it’s possible that, for certain processes, remote validation could be conducted. For example, holding tube calculations mostly require the ‘crunching of data’, meaning there is no need for company visits. Most validations, however, need to be carried out at your factory.

Not all validations are created equal

The basic principle of thermal process validation is relatively straightforward. However, there are several important features which, if carried out incorrectly, could lead to a substantial over-estimation of lethality. It is therefore crucial that such tests are properly planned and executed by specialists.

…it’s crucial that your processes are validated by specialists, especially where food safety is concerned.

Five considerations before having your thermal processes validated

As highlighted, it’s crucial that your processes are validated by specialists, especially where food safety is concerned. So, with examples from our own experience at Campden BRI, here are five things you should consider before agreeing to a thermal process validation project:

  1. Wealth of experience – We were founded in 1919 and have since become the leading authority in the thermal processing of foods. Our current thermal processing team has significant experience working with many different products, packaging formats and processes, such as:
    • saturated steam, steam-air, raining water and water cascade retorts, including those using rotation
    • packaging of products in cans, flexible pouches, glass jars and semi-rigid plastic trays
    • cooking pots, batch tanks and hot water baths, which are often used to process sauces in batches as well as cooking products, such as meat and fish, as loose pieces or within vacuum packs
    • travelling and rotating ovens used to process herbs, spices, grains and meat products
    • tunnel pasteurisers to process beverages, sauces and condiments
    • steam ovens and smokers processing meat and fish, and
    • continuous processes for dry products or using heat exchangers and either hot filled or filled under aseptic or clean conditions.
  2. Are they well equipped? With our large inventory and variety of data loggers, we can take measurements on a variety of products and thermal processing systems. Temperature and heat distribution require numerous loggers to map a retort’s performance. We can provide smart solutions to validation within challenging environments. Also, with the many data loggers available to us we can validate multiple processes simultaneously, saving you time and money.
  3. Are they trusted? We have identified ways to reduce the costs of validation trials without compromising the safety or quality of the work – making our validation rates highly competitive. With over 2,500 member companies from 80 countries including all of the top 10 UK retailers, we’re well recognised and trusted within the industry. Our validation reports provide clear outcomes and recommendations and are checked by an expert with significant thermal processing experience.
  4. Do they offer alternative techniques? For those processes that cannot be validated through traditional temperature measurements, we offer microbiological and biochemical TTI (time-temperature integrators) testing to measure processes, as well as predictive modelling.
  5. Will they provide you with continued support? Our thermal processing team are always happy to answer any questions you may have following our validation reports and work with you to improve your products and processes.

There are a whole range of thermal processing related services we can offer. A validation project is likely to lead to a broader support package involving services such as chemical and microbiological analysis, food safety management, regulatory advice and training. We’d love to talk – why not get in touch to find out how we can help?

David Whittaker

About David Whittaker

David Whittaker is a thermal processing specialist with an all-round knowledge of thermal processing across many sectors of the food industry - particularly in chilled, acidified and heat preserved food and beverage manufacturing.

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