The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed by Congress in December of 2010 and signed by the President in 2011, enacts some of the most sweeping reforms to U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years. Its goal is to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
Temperature is a critical component of food safety, of course. Between FSMA and consumer concerns over food safety, maintaining an appropriate temperature throughout the food manufacturing process is more critical than ever.
Beaverton Foods produces more than 700 product formulas on seven production lines in its lone plant in Hillsboro, Ore. "For about 20 percent of our products, the FDA requires very tight temperature tolerances," says CEO Domonic Biggi, "especially tomato-based products such as salsas, ketchup, barbecue sauces and some Asian sauces. What is critical for us is maintaining specific temperatures during our manufacturing process, from mixing through the final packaging process.
"We ship around 30 million units a year," he continues. "Food safety is foremost at Beaverton Foods. We meet SQF audits as well as third-party auditors like Sysco and Costco. We must be compliant."
Beaverton Foods began in 1929 when Rose Biggi, an entrepreneurial Italian immigrant, moved to Beaverton, Ore. She began grinding and bottling horseradish root in her farmhouse basement, selling her product store-to-store. "Quality has always been No. 1 with us, since day one," says Domonic Biggi. "We now process several million pounds of horseradish per year, producing dozens of different varieties of horseradish."
Under the leadership of Rose's son Gene, the company expanded into the specialty mustard market. At the time, specialty mustards were primarily imported. Beaverton Foods aimed to offer a local product that surpassed the quality and flavor of imports. Over 150 different flavored mustards are now produced.
Today, under the leadership of third generation Domonic Biggi, Beaverton Foods pioneers new condiment flavors. Its high-end specialty condiments include horseradishes, mustards, tartar sauces, wasabi, cocktail sauces and salsas, just to name a few.
The weak link in Beaverton's process appeared to be a hopper that was feeding the filling line. That was essentially the only critical point in the process where product was not being heated and held at 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
A secondary problem was the size of the hopper – it was a little small for the mixing bowls and downstream processes. Both problems were solved by Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothell, Wash.
"They contacted us to add a heated hopper to their six-piston filler," recalls Lance Aasness, executive vice-president of the Hinds-Bock. "We supplied a triple-walled agitated hopper. Heated oil is circulated between the inner and center walls, and with insulation between the center and outer walls, we maintain the desired temperature. The hopper cover also aids in maintaining and controlling temperatures and the gentle variable speed agitator decreases hot and cold spots.
"We supply complete heated systems," Aasness continues. "Heated blending tanks, transfer pumps with heat traced stainless steel lines, and even fillers with heated heads when needed. To meet documentation for stringent FDA audits, we can provide thermocouples that document and record temperatures in the system's PLC. We can also provide alarm systems that alert users when temperatures fall outside preset parameters."
"With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA plans on tightening temperature tolerances during the manufacturing process," Biggi continues. "Beaverton Foods decided to be proactive, not reactive, and implement those regulations now. This is beneficial for our customers. It eliminates bacteria during the manufacturing process."