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Could Starch Lines Be Culprit to Metal in Boxes?

May 19, 2018

Ray asks,

 Since April of this year we’ve been fighting with major metal detection rejections with one of our customer that has a stringent HACCP/SOP in place.

We feel we may have finally found the source of our metal contamination. We believe that it may be our metal starch lines and perhaps rust form the lines is mixing with the starch and being transferred to the products. We’re waiting for metal chemical analysis results to come back to confirm my suspicions.

While we are awaiting the results of the test we have come up with a few more questions and hope that you can help provide an answer.

Best Practices:

How often should starch lines be flushed?

Should straight bleach used?

What types of strainers are being used in the industry and what are considered the best systems?

Is anyone using inline magnets in their glue systems?

How often should the schedule 80 pipe lines be replaced, and is there anyone out in the industry using Predictive Maintenance to replace lines?

Is PVC piping a viable alternative for starch lines?

Thank you and your readers for any insight that can be provided.

Just a couple thoughts. Have you ruled out the chance of contamination from sources outside of the manufacturing process? Do the conveyors pass a maintenance shop grinders could be in use? Are there any RFID tags used in any of your processes?

For input on the starch lines I reached out to Wayne Porell at Harper Love Adhesives to see what experience he may have with such issues.­­­

First, I don’t have any plants having this issue. There may be more going on here than what we typically see.  Most well-run plants flush their starch lines at the end of every week by at least running water through the system after they shut down. Some plants also use Clean Tank HP™ from Walla Walla Chemical. Others just use bleach. However, bleach only disinfects the lines to help control bacteria. It doesn’t help remove any build up starch in the lines.

Some plants have strainers in place but remove the filter because they get clogged and cause the pan to over flow. These filters need to be cleaned, but can only be cleaned when there is no starch in the lines and the machine is down. You also want to make sure the filters are in place and are not damaged.

I don’t know of anyone using inline magnets to catch metal parts. If the plant is getting enough metal inside their boxes to set off alarms, then I would, as obviously they are, be looking where the metal is coming from. There shouldn’t be enough metal from mechanical pumps or bearings causing this issue. If there was, I would certainly think they would be seeing mechanical failures by now.

Over time schedule 80 iron pipes rust inside and create areas where starch can build up and harbor bacteria. This shouldn’t cause enough metal to come off to trigger an alarm. If anything, they rust through and cause leaks or the starch builds up inside the lines and creates flow issues at higher speeds.

The timeline for replacing these metal lines depends on the house keeping over the life of the lines. Like anything in the plant, the better that is taken, typically the longer it will last. The chemicals used to clean the lines can affect the longevity of the lines as well.

Schedule 80 PVC can be used and is used in some plants. The issue with these lines is you need to have hanger braces every four feet to keep them from sagging. If they sag, then you have areas where starch could build up in the lines. However, they are easier to clean if you keep them flushed on a weekly basis.

PVC lines also have to be braced well, especially if using pneumatic pumps for starch supply and return which tend to cause a pulsating action. PVC doesn’t allow bacteria to build up since it doesn’t have cavities like those caused by rust as in metal lines.

I have seen some plants switch to stainless steel lines. These are probably the best, but also cost the most.

Again, if the plant is getting that many rejections due to metal they should review their whole process. Small specs of metal should set off alarms at their customers. Are they using any types of foil tape in their process?

— Ralph

 

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