According to research from Ohio State University, the cost of foodborne illness in the U.S. including lost productivity, medical costs and economic losses may be as high as $93.2 billion. The impact of a sanitation breach in the food processing environment is certainly devastating to consumers, and could be financially catastrophic to producers given that the average direct cost of a food company recall is $10 million.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 highlights a new dimension to the challenge of food safety. With restaurants closed and consumers eating more meals at home, many food processors have had to convert production lines to accommodate more retail demand. In Mid-March of 2020, sales for fresh and frozen meat were up 77% from 2019; deli meat increased 40%. Liquid milk saw 32% growth and popcorn and pretzels jumped 47%. If food hygiene is a stress point under normal conditions, the pressure is intensified when production lines run at capacity to keep store shelves filled.
Food safety programs rely heavily on human factors but there are things humans can’t do. People can’t spot microbes with the naked eye or prevent the chemical breakdown of surfaces. Increasingly, companies turn to innovative technologies to support the heavy demands of food hygiene.
At Habasit, we continue to find ways to engineer food safety into our conveyor belt systems. For example, our Habasit Cleandrive line features a special polyurethane formulation that offers exceptional microbial and hot water hydrolysis resistance.
In the past few weeks, we introduced the Habasit Cleandrive lug drive, the third drive system in the Habasit Cleandrive product suite. Delicate foods require additional sanitation steps in the production process; the design of our lug drive (which is USDA certified for meat, poultry and dairy processing) takes hygiene up a notch in so many ways.
A more sanitary surface
Standard monolithic belt materials attract fungi and bacteria that feed on belt surfaces. Besides putting food at risk, this “feeding” causes cracking and other degradation issues that keep the cycle of contamination going. Water poses a similar threat to these belts, creating chemical decomposition that sculpts ridges and crevasses into the surface that are impossible to clean.
By resisting microbes and hydrolysis in the first place, Habasit Cleandrive lug drive gives food processors the most sanitary surface to work from, no matter the temperature. It also provides a higher level of assurance to food inspectors.
Food processors have to contend with the Catch-22 of belt scraping. Food particles and debris not only add contamination risk, but also mechanical risk, as these bits can lead to sprocket disengagement and other maintenance issues. But here’s the rub: Scraping in itself can increase the hygiene headache. Traditional monolithic belts tend to have pronounced sink marks over drive bars and lugs, making it difficult to get a consistently snug scrape across the surface.
Our proprietary manufacturing process solves the problem. The monolithic Habasit Cleandrive lug drive is extruded from a single premium TPU material. The result: an extremely smooth, cavity-free surface that optimizes scraping efficiency.
Less stretch leads to higher hygiene
Microbes and water aren’t the only sources of belt degradation and safety risk. Belt elongation does a number on belt surfaces, forming cracks and holes that store bacteria and impair cleaning. To prevent excessive stretching, we reinforced the Habasit Cleandrive lug drive with Aramid cords for an added layer of stability. This extra reinforcement also eliminates the need to install support shoes or limiters to promote sprocket engagement. That means fewer unhygienic components to worry about.
As a side benefit, reduced belt degradation and stretching leads to longer belt life in some applications. With fewer belt replacements, you can lessen the contamination risk of handling, and reduce costs too.
When it comes to food safety, so much rides on the quality and performance of your belting system. Habasit Cleandrive lug drive gives you the confidence of the most hygienic belt drive on the market. Check out our video on the Habasit Cleandrive suite here:
 Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, High Cost of Foodborne Illness: New Study Provides State-by-State Breakdown, June 3, 2015
 Food Safety Magazine, “Recall: The Food Industry’s Biggest Threat to Profitability,” October 2012
 FoodProcessing.com, “How the Coronavirus is Affecting Food Processing,” March 31,2020