Everything in the food and beverage manufacturing industry has to be tested and approved for safe use around the products we consume, even the lighting.
It’s imperative you understand the requirements light fixtures are expected to meet.
The three most important concerns when it comes to food processing are to prevent:
Lighting used in food processing facilities must provide protection from:
NSF Certification & Lighting
NSF International is a non-profit, independent, 3rd party certifier of products used in the food processing industry.
Its primary goal is to maintain high safety standards for facilities that manufactures and distributes human consumables.
Its strict measures and methods ensures that products are in compliance with the FDA and USDA.
Those products that are certified are allowed to display the NSF certification with their product. The NSF certification process is rigorous.
The product is evaluated and tested. The manufacturing plant is inspected. Once certified, the facility subject to yearly inspections to ensure the NSF standards are maintained.
IP Ratings comprise of two rating digits.
The first digit refers to a light’s protection against dust and other airborne particles.
The second digit refers to protection against liquids.
So, a IP00 rating provides no protection from solids or liquids. A rating of IP69 would provide the highest rated protection against dust and water.
The scale goes from 0-6 for both solids and 1 through 9 for liquids. For food processing, you’re going to want a higher IP Rating, likely 65 or greater.
For high pressure wash down, you will want IP69. If you want to learn more about IP ratings, and what means what, read this.
The Stringent Standards of the Food & Bev Industry
NSF International has set strict standards that are based on a location’s condition and the extent of contact with food procedures. For lighting the standard we care about is NSF2, or NSF / ANSI Standard 2.
Food processing plants have the highest standards of sanitation protocols and cleanliness and undergo frequent and stringent inspections. Unsurprisingly the NSF has stringent compliance standards. They look at a facility’s condition and the degree of contact with food, direct or indirect contact.
The foundation classifies equipment used in food processing environments into three zones
In this area, direct contact with food isn’t expected. Liquids used for cleaning can splash or spill on the fixtures surfaces.
In splash zones, high-pressure hose wash-downs occur. Splash zones include damp or wet process areas.
These are areas that use hose wash-downs, and high-pressure purging or decontamination areas.
In this zone, there is direct contact with food. The food zone certification usually applies to equipment not related to lighting, like work tables and cutting boards.
So although there are extremely strict requirements for the equipment in these areas, none apply to lighting.
For more details on these, we recommend checking out the NSF’s website here.
In this zone, there isn’t any direct contact with food under normal working conditions.
Light fixtures are not exposed to wash downs. Lights need to be well protected against dirt, dust and cleaning products.
Non-food zones include food storage areas, dry and damp process areas, and kitchens.
Since light fixtures never come into contact with food while being processed, the only 2 zones NSF regulates are Splash Zones and Non Food Zones.
NSF International requires beverage and food facilities use IP65 to I969K rated light fixtures. The higher the rating, the better protected the light is from water.
IP69K allows for high pressure, hot water washdowns, where as IP65 rated is good for locations that get wet, but are not dealing with high pressure, high heat jets of water.
Complying with Food Safety Standards
Now that you know about the requirements, it’s time to learn how to meet them.
The great thing about LED lighting is that they can comply with the strict requirements set by the USA Department of Agriculture and the FDA.
The FDA suggest the following light standard in food manufacturing facilities:
Areas where employees work with food equipment and safety is paramount: 54 foot candles
Locations where packaged food is sold or provided for consumption: 22 foot candles
30 inches above the floor in dry storage areas and walk-in refrigeration areas: 12 foot candles
Poultry, Dairy and Meat processors that want to comply with USDA regulations for inspections have to comply with the following criteria.
Locations where dairy food items are produced. packaged or cleaned: 30 foot candles
Locations where utensils are packaged or manufactured: 30 foot candles
Areas or spaces where product contamination is possibly: 50 foot candles
Food inspection areas and stations: 50 to 200 foot candles
LED Technology Is More Than Up To The Stringent Standards of the Food Industry
There are 3 things food processing lights must be able to do in order to meet the needs of a food processing facility:
Be easy to clean. This decreases the risk of contamination. It also lower lighting maintenance costs and downtime with their long lifespans
Be bright enough to enhance visibility for employees in the facility. The light should not cause blinding glare or cast shadows which may be the cause of accidents
Meet all the government and industry regulations relating to food quality and safety.
LED lights have unique properties that make them highly suitable for different operations in the food industry. They include:
Long operating life
High Impact robust housings
Super bright high quality light
Low heat emissions
By design, LEDs decrease damage caused by excess heat and degradation caused by the light source. (think metal halide). This makes LEDs suitable for cold storages and freezer areas.
Recent research shows LED Fixtures used in these facilities preserves the nutrition food value post harvest. They help reduce fungal infections known to be created by non-LED light sources.
It’s well-known how little heat LEDs produce. They’re not affected by cold temperatures. This makes them a great choice inside food processing areas and for food storage.
Thanks to their long expected lifespan and durability, LEDs help companies reduce utility and maintenance costs. Companies can expect a quick ROI when converting out old HID and fluorescent lighting over to LED.
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.