Hoses Are The Arteries of Food Production: Have You Selected Wisely?

6 takeaways from a recent Food Processing webinar

Like the human body is dependent upon veins and arteries to support a beating heart, so are food-grade hoses vital to safely connecting various stages of production to an uncompromised finished product.  

Safety is the number one priority of every food processor, and as such owners need to protect the safety of the food they handle every step of the way.

Selecting the correct hoses is essential to success, especially when there are a variety of hoses on the market created for a range of applications, from distilleries to dairies. The specification process becomes paramount: A poorly chosen hose can easily become a weak link in a plant’s food safety program, and even prove a danger to employees.

Degradation from fats and oils is a perpetual battle in maintaining the integrity of hoses, as are other conditions, such as functioning under high pressure as well as the high temperatures of the liquids they transport. Abrasion from machines and flooring within the facility is an added consideration that is sometimes overlooked. 

Food Processing magazine hosted a webinar in December discussing the importance of food-grade hoses for food production. Food Processing magazine editor-in-chief Dave Fusaro led a conversation on the topic alongside two experts from Parker Hannifin Corporation: Matthew Davis, business development manager of the Hose Products Division, and Dylan Shamakian, sales manager of Fluid Connectors Group Hose Products Division. 

Here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing the right hose to keep employees and products safe:

Consideration #1: STAMP (a most important acronym) 

Size, Temperature, Application, Media and Pressure: All of these factors should be assessed. Processors should ask fitting (pun intended) questions like:

  • Is abrasion resistance important?
  • Does the weight of the hose matter?
  • Does the hose need to prove resistant to fats/oils?
  • Should you be concerned with high temperatures?
  • Does the hose need to withstand a certain cleaning process?
  • Does the type of cover for the hose or tube need to be considered for grip or aesthetics? 

Consideration #2: Hose material and construction 

Rubber vs. PVC? Rubber proves tougher and can perform at high and low temperatures while maintaining flexibility as well as strength, even when under high pressure. PVC, although more lightweight, does not offer as many benefits and loses integrity when functioning at high pressures. 

Other things to weigh: 

  • Does the hose need an inner tube that will protect it from reacting with or breaking down when it is exposed to a certain fluid?
  • Does the hose need reinforcement, which is essential for pressure design and helical wires for vacuum-rated hoses?
  • Does the hose cover make a difference?

Harsh conditions simply demand more robust materials, particularly when faced with extreme temperatures, wear, abrasion and sunlight. Several cover options are available to meet user requirements, as variability is essential to matching the right hose with the proper application. Corrugated covers allow for greater flexibility while also increasing durability and lowering the force to flex, which makes the hose easier to work with and safer. 

Consideration #3: Material and chemical resistance 

In food processing, it is necessary that hoses be non-toxic and non-metal. 

While metal can corrode and contaminate, rubber is corrosion resistant. It is also essential that hoses be odorless, so as not to transfer smells or tastes to the product, and that they are manufactured from non-toxic compounds to ensure chemical resistance. 

Additionally, all hoses can be cleaned and reused, which can save money. 

Consideration #4: Flexibility and kink 

Will the tubing be repeatedly moved? That is something to consider. Flexibility is determined by Durometer — the international standard for the hardness measurement of rubber, plastic and other non-metallic materials — as well as force-to-bend, wall thickness, reinforcement style and temperature. It is worth considering that a lower force to flex means the hose is typically “safer” and easier to maneuver. Resistance to collapsing and kinking becomes increasingly important when the hose must bend around machinery. 

Some heavy-duty food-grade hoses contain an internal stainless-steel or thermoplastic helix to prevent the hose from being crushed or kinked, according to the webinar. 

Consideration #5: Safety first 

Safety and flammability must be evaluated if the tubing and hosing will be subjected to high temperatures or electricity. Worst-case scenarios need to be considered. 

Hose pressure does not impact the flavor, texture, color or nutritional profile of the product. Good food-grade hoses can sustain high pressure. However, exceeding the pressure rating might lead to a burst hose that can cause injury, damage and downtime.   

Temperature matters: Hoses have temperature range ratings that must be followed. Material breakdown can occur when the hose is used in conditions that are hotter or colder than its rating. 

Questions worth asking:

  • Will it be near other equipment that is throwing off heat?
  • Is the temperature of the product traveling through the hose appropriate for it?
  • Will it be subjected to temperature deviations and sunlight outside?
  • Will it need to be flexible and operate below freezing temperatures? 

Consideration #6: Fittings, clamps and expansion 

In addition to its upfront cost, the hose’s ongoing maintenance costs — such as regular inspections, cleaning and disinfection — should also be factored into your decision. 

Selecting the correct fitting and clamps for specific tubing is also vital. Processors must choose the correct collars, barbed fittings and O-rings based on their particular needs. An additional consideration is the need for thermal expansion, which can require either a crimp or an internal expansion coupling. 

Food processors have a myriad of responsibilities and concerns, so hose and fitting selections are sometimes overlooked. Yet, when things go wrong and hose integrity is compromised, the ramifications can be both dangerous and costly. Selecting the right hoses for the right purposes is critical to the safe, successful and continued operation of food and beverage facilities.

Have more questions about which hose specifications work best for your facility? You can call 904.260.2900 or email jswecker@stellar.net or jgoode@stellar.net.

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