Product recalls can be a costly and damaging process to any food manufacturer. While steam has historically been the most popular choice for indirect heat transfer, food-grade heat transfer fluids have climbed ahead in recent years because of their increased safety and more manageable maintenance

Clive Jones, managing director of Global Heat Transfer, shows how food and beverage manufacturers can increase the lifespan of their heat transfer system and reduce the risk of food products becoming contaminated


ccording to legal firm RPC, 203 unsafe food products had to be recalled in 2019 in the UK, due to allergy issues, unsafe

materials entering the food and breaches to health regulations. Product recalls can be costly, both to a business’ finances and its reputation, so manufacturers should take every precaution to prevent contamination, particularly when working with thermal fluids. Food contamination can come from a range

of sources — unsanitary water used to wash products, materials from broken appliances getting into food or products mixing, such as meat contaminating a vegan dish. On rare occasions, heat transfer fluid can

contaminate food, for example, if the system has a leak. Some food manufacturers opt for steam-based heat transfer to avoid this issue all together ― but is this the best option? While the distilled water in steam heat

transfer systems ensures that incidental contact with products will not lead to contamination, steam-based systems are not always the safest option. Steam heat transfer systems operate at

very high pressures of about 85 bars or 8,500 kPa. If the steam reaches a critical pressure and the system has no way to vent, it can cause pipes, valves or seams to burst. Consequently, extremely hot steam or shrapnel from the pipes may harm employees and damage the surrounding infrastructure. Corrosion in pipes is also


common in steam systems, so regular maintenance is needed to reduce downtime. Alternatively, thermal fluid systems pose

many advantages over steam based systems. These systems operate at atmospheric pressure and are well vented, decreasing the strain on pipes and the risk to life and infrastructure. This reduces Health & Safety risks, and means downtime to replace piping can be planned into the production schedule. If food and beverage manufacturers use a

standard heat transfer fluid and there is incidental contact with a food product, the whole batch will have to be scrapped. It can be costly to dispose of products and can damage a company’s reputation if the product has to be recalled. The best way to prevent such a risk is to use a food-grade fluid. Food-grade thermal fluids must carry a HT-1

certificate, granted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the NSF International, to

be approved for use in food processing. They are typically colourless, non-toxic, non- irritating and non-fouling, so if they do come into contact with food and consumers, they will lead to lower recall rates. Manufacturers should also select a fluid with a high flash point, which lowers the risk of fire. Food and beverage processing reactions

take place at very specific temperatures, so manufacturers require a fluid with precise temperature control. Global Heat Transfer's Globaltherm FG, for example, is accredited for use in Kosher and Halal process applications and can operate and maintain temperatures ranging from -20 to 326˚C. It has outstanding thermal oxidation stability and a lower viscosity than standard mineral oils so that it is easier to pump around the system. Thermal fluids will degrade over time,

especially when operating at high temperatures for long periods of time. Fluid degradation can cause a build-up of carbon and other by-products in pipes, reducing heat transfer efficiency that can cause products to be cooked inconsistently. If the fluid is properly maintained manufacturers can slow down the degradation process and reduce the risk of unplanned downtime. Heat transfer fluids should be sampled

regularly to ensure compliance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). Regularly sampling typically lowers the cost of maintenance compared with the continual monitoring of steam system components. A strategic maintenance plan, such as Global Heat Transfer’s Thermocare, allows managers to analyse the fluid samples and maintain an efficient heat transfer system to avoid any unexpected downtime or costs.

Global Heat Transfer

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