In the world of liquid media measurement, tools and devices are typically chosen due to their accuracy, compatibility with their operating conditions, durability, and a host of other concerns unique to every application. When it comes to food and beverage processing, however, there are the added concerns of rigid government regulation and the need to meet harsh sanitation standards.
This, of course, is to prevent harmful contamination of food and beverages in order to avoid illness and keep the public safe. From a consumer’s point of view, there’s nothing more to think about, and rightfully so. But what does this mean for those of us on the production side, and the tools required to do the job?
Regulations for Computerized Systems in Food Processing
In a broad sense, thermometers, temperature sensors, level sensors, and other devices are all a part of a computerized system that includes sensing switches, output devices, signal converters, computer terminals, and even software systems. Input devices and other switches are particularly important in food and beverage applications because they are the only components that come into direct contact with the substance being monitored.
According to Food and Drug Administration regulations concerning manufacturing and packaging food for human consumption, “Instruments and controls used for measuring, regulating, or recording temperatures, pH, acidity, water activity, or other conditions that control or prevent the growth of undesirable microorganisms in food shall be accurate and adequately maintained.”
In other words, if you’re making something for human consumption, you need to make sure your equipment works. The FDA regularly inspects facilities to verify the proper calibration and accuracy of processing equipment, what factors they control and other specifications. (Read more about FDA regulations here.)
Types of Sensors Used in Food and Beverage Processing
Temperature sensors and thermometers are the most obvious, and often the most crucial input
devices for food and beverage applications. Variations of only a few degrees can mean the difference between a safe product and one contaminated with harmful bacteria. Temperature sensors control automatic regulation of temperature, keeping food out of the “danger zone,” and activate alarms to alert workers when the temperature exceeds or drops from the safe range.
Level and Pressure sensors are useful in maintaining proper levels in tanks, vats, and other vessels used in food and beverage processing. This prevents overflows and other malfunctions that could lead to contamination or interruption of production. Any of these components must not only be accurate and consistent in their reading, but must also be able to withstand the rigors of food processing: vibrations, turbulence, and the stresses of cleaning processes.
If you’re in an industry covered by these regulations, the first step in knowing your equipment is up to snuff is getting the right one in the first place. SMD Fluid Controls is an industry leader in providing custom and OEM level sensors, temperature gauges, and other components necessary to food and beverage processing applications.