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By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor | 04/10/2007
“We turned that old factory building into a really nice food processing facility,” says Jeff Fleming, technical sales representative for Valspar Flooring, Wheeling, Ill. “They needed a floor with thermal shock resistance, but they also wanted coatability and an anti-microbial addition.”
Indeed, the “anti-microbial” addition was critical — a significant effort to invest in plant-floor hygiene. No issue in the food processing world demands such a long-term commitment as food safety. And keeping facility surfaces — floors, walls and ceilings — in a near-constant microbe-clear condition is an important step in making sure dangerous food pathogens never get a foothold in the plant.
Valspar along with Concare Inc., a concrete floor repair and restoration company in Melrose Park, Ill., took on the installation. One of the most difficult aspects of the project was putting in a flooring system so strong it could resist the extreme heat of baking ovens, heavy humidity, the boiling hot water of steam cleaners, freezers dropping temperatures to lower than -10°F and a spiral freezer kept at -40°F.
“Because it has the same coefficient of expansion as concrete, Flowfresh withstands extreme thermal shocks,” he says, noting the surface will neither crack nor delaminate from the concrete even with repeated exposure to radical temperature fluctuations from near-boiling water to frozen storage conditions.
Valspar’s Flowfresh is a urethane concrete overlay that contains Polygiene, a silver ion-based antimicrobial material that fights staph, salmonella, listeria and other harmful microbes that pose constant challenges to food safety.
Conventional epoxy flooring alone would not provide adequate protection in the mixing, proofing, preparation and cooking areas, where compliance to USDA sanitation standards is enforced. Microbial contaminants such as fungi and mildew eat at concrete surfaces, creating pockets where they can hide and proliferate. The install team applied Valspar Federal Formula clear hardener on the concrete in the silo room and two freezers. The two vendors recommended a Valspar EpoRok resurfacer for the packaging area and loading docks where the floors had been badly damaged. A simple, self-leveling 1/8-inch slurry epoxy coating was deemed adequate in non-production areas.
But the critical component for floor hygiene in the food production areas was Flowfresh RT. The Flowfresh hygienic polyurethane concrete flooring system was developed to maximize cleanliness while resisting the punishing mix of forces in a food processing environment, including heavy equipment and product loads, water damage and extreme thermal swings.
“Flowfresh is a urethane concrete overlay designed to take thermal shock from very cool to very warm temperatures and have excellent resistance to both food grade chemicals and cleaning chemicals,” explains Byron Beamer, national account manager for Valspar.
It contains Polygiene, a silver ion-based antimicrobial material that fights staph, salmonella, listeria and other harmful microbes that pose constant challenges to food safety. Polygiene was developed as part of the Flowcrete group in Sandbach, England, with which Valspar has a strategic alliance.
“The silver ion technology is inert, so there are no chemicals involved,” says Beamer. “As bacteria come into contact with the silver ions, they are killed.” The product binds directly to the concrete and requires no primer. It can be put over green concrete as fresh as seven days.
Ancestors to this technology date back to ancient Rome. Silver-based ship coatings helped resist the growth of marine algae and barnacles. Today anti-fouling sprays are popular in the U.S. Navy, according to Beamer, to impede plant or animal life from attaching to ship hulls. The modern-day predecessor technology originated prior to World War II in chemical hazmat areas.
Today silver ion coatings are coming into their own in the food plant environment where they have proven effective on conveyor lines and equipment including meat grinders, chicken processing equipment and a variety of kill-room applications.
“The silver ion technology is a next-generation development,” says Beamer. “The Flowcrete folks found a way to put it into a floor coat topping. It’s good for virtually any food plant from a hog processing facility to a beverage plant, even in a brewery or a winery.”
The antimicrobial technology also is safe. “That it works and works safely is a huge reason why some processors choose it,” adds Fleming, noting it sets up quickly and contains no VOCs. “And, compared to like products, it is also easier to use.”
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the technology is its endurance. The coating continues undiminished and uninterrupted in its resistance to mildew, mold, bacteria and fungi. The antimicrobial is spread almost evenly across the thickness of the floor coat. Traffic and wear actually activate more of the antimicrobial, which not only kills contaminants but digests the residue of the victims. The seamless coating it provides eliminates pores where bacteria can hide.
Indeed, the flooring has been incorporated into the plants of many leading food companies including General Mills, Kraft, Coca-Cola and ConAgra, according to Beamer.
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