Food-safe equipment – a vital ally in your food safety programme

Food-safe equipment is a vital component of a food safety programme. We help you identify equipment certified to industry standards, so you can buy with confidence.

The global challenge of food contamination

Worldwide it’s estimated that 600 million people, almost 1 in 10, become ill as a result of eating contaminated food each year, resulting in 420 000 deaths.1

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages and 3,000 die from foodborne illness. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that foodborne illnesses cost the United States more than $15.6 billion per annum.2

The WHO South-East Asia Region accounts for 150 million illnesses, 175 000 deaths, and 12 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs).3

In Europe, 23 million people fall ill from unsafe food each year.4 In the UK, there are over 2.4 million food poisoning cases annually, many of which are linked to UK restaurants.5

These statistics reinforce the importance of food safety on a worldwide scale, and demonstrate the continuing challenge of promoting and adopting good practice when it comes to storing and handling food.

Food-safe equipment is a vital ally in your food safety strategy

Globally, food safety is underpinned by regional, national and international standards and protocols. Food-safe equipment is an essential component of an organisation’s overall food safety management programme, and a vital ally in your food safety operations, yet it can sometimes be overlooked.

Failing to invest in food-safe equipment can result in food retailers and restaurant operators continuing to operate with equipment which can’t always be cleaned effectively - leading to cross-contamination. Equally, food equipment may not be constructed of food grade materials – leading to an increased risk of products becoming contaminated with chemicals, and may also not keep food at the required temperature.

Ultimately, compromising on food-safe equipment can increase the risk of failing inspections, or as we’ve seen, allow an outbreak of foodborne illness that could be traced to your premises. The potential consequences of foodborne illness are huge, and in the most serious cases can include costly law suits, lost revenue, business closure, and of course damaged consumer perception and brand reputation.

Taking into account lost revenue, lawsuits, legal fees, and fines, the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimates that the cost of a single foodborne illness outbreak can range from 0.3% all the way up to 101% of a restaurant operator’s annual profit and revenue. It concludes that,

The cost of a single foodborne illness outbreak to a restaurant can be substantial and outweigh the typical costs of prevention and control measures.6

Does your food equipment meet relevant standards?

Ensuring commercial kitchen equipment is food-safe should be a key priority in any foodservice business, be it restaurants, QSRs or retailers.

So, how can food safety managers, operations managers, franchise owners, and facilities managers identify whether they are in fact sourcing food-safe equipment that meets industry standards and will help mitigate the risks previously highlighted?

For 80 years NSF has facilitated the development of more than 75 sanitary standards for restaurant foodservice equipment, including washing equipment, cooking equipment, refrigerators and freezers, food preparation equipment, vending machines, dispensing equipment, coffee machines, laminates, food carts, racks, shelving and risers, as well as robotics and automation equipment.

Here are our experts’ top tips on what to look for when buying food-safe equipment:

  • Design and construction

    Equipment should be designed and constructed to be easily cleaned to ensure it is unlikely to harbour bacteria. It should be possible to take it apart regularly – allowing for efficient, thorough cleansing.

  • Material safety

    Equipment should be made of safe, non-toxic, ‘food grade’ materials that will not corrode, and which meet other food safety standards to ensure the product will not leach harmful chemicals into food.

  • Product performance

    To mitigate foodborne risks, equipment should meet the prescribed performance standards, such as having the ability to hold food at required safe temperatures, and having clean-in-place (CIP) instructions on how to clean and sanitize inaccessible areas of a machine.

How can buyers procure food-safe equipment with confidence?

Certification to NSF food equipment standards provides credibility and industry acceptance, meaning that buyers can source quality, compliant equipment with confidence.

Certification is a continuous process of independent product testing against the required standard, and rigorous on-site facility audits. NSF certification is widely regarded as one of the most specified certifications and recognized marks in the industry.

NSF has certified thousands of products for use in restaurant and commercial kitchen settings, so if you’re looking for equipment that meets industry standards and bears the trusted NSF mark, visit our Certified Food Equipment Directory.

Contributor to this article

Sam Cole, Director, Food Contact Evaluations, NSF

Download our procuring food safe equipment PDF to learn more

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1 World Health Organization. Food safety in South-East Asia.

2 CDC. CDC and Food Safety.

3 World Health Organization.

4 World Health Organization.

5 Food Standards Agency. FSA research suggests new higher estimates for the role of food in UK illness.

6 National Library of Medicine. Estimated Cost to a Restaurant of a Foodborne Illness Outbreak.

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