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A: Jeff Tibbetts, Vortex Global

When handling pet food and the ingredients used in its production, several key issues should be taken into consideration. Sanitary modifications, interior accessibility, wear compensation, inline maintenance, and dust-tight sealing capabilities are all factors that need to be examined when purchasing equipment and components for pet food handling.

What bulk handling equipment is commonly used in handling pet food and pet food ingredients?
Some equipment commonly used to produce pet food includes slide gates, diverter valves, airlocks, screw conveyors, hoppers, screeners, and magnets. Manufacturers and suppliers of this equipment continue to make strides in ensuring long service life and the ability to prevent cross contamination and spoilage.

What are some of the challenges when handling pet food and pet food ingredients?
Among the ingredients used in the production of pet food are grains, meat by-products, fish, and varying organic materials. These ingredients can be challenging to handle due to various factors, including their sticky nature and concerns of cross contamination.

As the industry moves toward creating natural products with even more organic ingredients, cleanliness is an important factor. To keep the facility clean, equipment must be easily accessible for frequent cleaning. The use of stainless steel for all material contact areas and other FDA-compliant materials helps to ensure cleanliness and safety of the product.

Another big challenge when handling dry kibble is that traditional pneumatic conveying methods can cause the kibble to turn to powder. To avoid breakage, gravity conveying is preferred. Gravity conveying also helps prevent infestation in sanitary applications. In addition to breakage, material loss is also a concern. To combat material loss, manufacturers have moved toward horizontal and enclosed conveying methods.

Are the same sanitary requirements necessary for handling pet food as food consumed by humans?
When handling pet food, the industry standard has been to treat pet food with the same regulations as food consumed by humans. When handling meat, USDA regulations are followed.

Electropolishing material contact areas and continuous welds are also used to ensure sanitation and safety. These processes lessen the raw stainless steel’s surface rigidity. In doing so, material particles and dusts have less opportunity to collect in ridges along the steel’s surface. These methods further reduce the likelihood of inline contamination and spoilage.

Vortex Global, is the parent company of Vortex, Salina, KS, which supplies slide gates, diverter valves, iris diaphragms, and loadout equipment designed specifically for handling dry bulk solids in gravity, vacuum, or dilute- or dense-phase pneumatic conveying applications.