Do European Standards Compare to 3-A?

July 17, 2008
Food processing plant experts answer your questions about U.S. and European hygienic standards.
We’ve assembled a panel of plant operations experts to answer any question you have on plant-floor issues. To pose a question, go to This month’s question was answered by Jon Archenhold, industrial market manager at Flow Technology Inc.

“How does the U.S. standard 3-A compare with European hygienic standards? Should a U.S. end user recognize EHEDG as an equivalent to 3-A on hygienic-approved devices such as flowmeters and other instrumentation?”

In the pharmaceutical, food and beverage and biotech industries, contamination-free processing is critical. The integrity of the sanitary manufacturing application is essential for full compliance to the validation process.

The potential for contamination increases with the introduction of peripheral components, such as instrumentation required to ensure process parameters remain within acceptable limits. As a result, these inline devices must themselves meet standards set by governing agencies to ensure there are no weak links in the sanitary chain.

U.S. food and beverage processors typically look for 3-A approval as well as NSF International (formerly National Sanitation Foundation) and sometimes the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label on components coming into direct contact with the processed medium. European-manufactured products built for sanitary applications typically have the European Hygienic Equipment Design Group (EHEDG) stamp of approval.

Tip of the month:
Using synthetic lubricants in high heat applications can reduce oil consumption because they have fewer volatile components than conventional refined oils. Over time, less oil evaporates or vaporizes into the process.

But how does EHEDG compare to 3-A? In the U.S., 3-A SSI standards have been developed for a variety of equipment used in the dairy and egg processing industries. The acronym 3-A refers to three dairy associations whose standards were consolidated in the 1920s. 3-A and NSF have collaborated in standards development for dairy, meat and poultry equipment. In Europe, EHEDG produces guidelines, rather than standards, for the construction and design of food processing equipment. It also specifies product requirements for passing cleanability testing performed in EHEDG laboratories.

Key equipment design considerations related to both 3-A SSI standards and EHEDG guidelines include:

  • Food contact surfaces
  • Metals
  • Surface texture/finish
  • Construction and fabrication
  • Internal angles
  • Testing

While there are subtle differences between 3-A standards and EHEDG guidelines, the primary intent of both organizations is the application of sound sanitary principles in food equipment manufacture. Both organizations represent equipment manufacturers, food industries, research institutes and public health authorities with the aim to promote hygiene during the processing and packaging of food products.

For many years, authorization to use the 3-A Symbol rested on a system of self-certification. This system changed in 2003, when the requirement for a third-party verification inspection was implemented for licensees and was completed for all standards by 2007.

While 3-A SSI's requirement for third-party verification more closely aligns its certification process with that of EHEDG, key differences remain in equipment design requirements. This is due, in part, to the different levels of cleanliness specified by each organization.

Harmonization is currently being explored among EHEDG, 3-A and NSF. Such cooperation will bring consensus to achieve technically equivalent hygienic design standards on a scientific and technical basis, and thus remove national or regional standards as non-tariff barriers to trade.

It is evident that 3-A SSI and EHEDG are driving in the same direction and the collaboration between the two organizations bodes well for the improvement and standardization of standards and guidelines in the future. What is certain is that the EHEDG guidelines and testing prove to U.S. food and beverage processors that the EHEDG stamp of approval is equal to 3-A and should be accepted as such.

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