Handling food comes with a lot of responsibilities to ensure the quality of the products and the safety of consumers. From minimal tracking of substances to easy-to-clean surfaces in food manufacturing and packaging, many belt components determine a conveyor system's productivity, safety standards, and health protocols. Many food handling regulations are set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with other federal organizations like OSHA and USDA. FDA-approved food-grade conveyor belts ensure the safest practices are in play in the packaging and manufacturing process. So how is a conveyor belt approved by the FDA?
To comply with FDA standards of food handling, belting manufacturers must ensure their food contact substances (FCS) or their belt make-up meets the specifications and limitations in different application fields set by the FDA. The manufacturer is responsible for assuring their compliance with the standards. There are five main different ways manufacturers can make sure their products meet FDA guidelines.
FDA Code of Federal Regulations
The code of federal regulations (CFR) in the FDA's FD&C Act lists all the approved food packaging materials that were once tested and proven safe to use. The approved food packaging materials noted in the CFR cover additives, adhesives, coatings, paper and paperboard components, polymers, sanitizers, and irradiation processing. Belting manufacturers use the listed CFR to see if their belts comply and include approved food contact substances (FCS). If the belts contain approved FCSs, they can list as FDA approved.
Prior Sanctioned Substances
Prior sanctioned substances are materials explicitly approved by the FDA or USDA before the FD&C Act came into play. They include a range of substances and categories, from antioxidants and antimycotics to stabilizers and release agents. Each of the substances also gets paired with a set of specific use regulations within the food manufacturing and packaging process. In other words, the listed prior sanctioned substances are only approved if and when used in a specific way under certain conditions.
Generally Recognized as Safe
As well as FDA-approved substances, items are also classified as generally recognized as safe (GRS). GRS substances are materials that include some items that the FDA hasn't specifically listed as safe but have been deemed safe and brought to the FDA's approval by other sources. Manufacturers seeking to approve their belts under FDA standards can consult both the FCS and GRS lists to ensure their belts consists of safe materials on all levels.
Threshold of Regulation
One last major step manufacturers take to determine if their belts comply with FDA standards is consulting the Threshold of Regulation. This regulation classifies exemptions to certain materials but only if used under specific conditions like set temperature levels and handling certain items. They set limitations and handling protocols for specific materials that generally do not classify as an FCS unless approved to work in and for certain workplaces and use.
Food Contact Formulation Notification
For legalities, belting manufacturers can submit a food contact formulation (FCF) notification to verify that their products are approved and deemed safe by the FDA. The verified compliance makes the FDA-approved products more formal and officially titled. The FCF ensures products aren't just approved through consulting the various previously listed sanctions but also by officials within the FDA and USDA.
As a consumer, understanding how conveyor belts get approved by the FDA holds importance because it ensures that the food-grade belts you invest in offer the safest and best standards for your warehouse. On top of meeting all the FDA checklists, food-grade conveyor belts offer bands that are easy to clean and maintain, minimal carryovers, high durability, high water and moisture resistance, and many more benefits that enhance your manufacturing or packaging productivity.