FDA – Approved Food Processing Facility Coating Materials

Barbara F. Watson

Painting contractors know that the food processing industry have some of the most difficult requirements when it comes to food safe floor coatings applications. Food products, after all, require special care in processing and handling, and the environment where these products are processed, specifically the floor coatings system, must guarantee a food-safe facility.

Foremost of these requirements are the environmental conditions in most food processing facilities, which is not like just any ordinary production plant. Food preparation areas are filled with constant human and mechanical activities, such as loading, packing, cleaning, food assembly, storing, and the like. Then there are the ingredients — oils, acids, and chemicals — that are commonly handled or spilled on facility floors. Any of these environmental conditions require for food safe floor coatings systems resistant to this kind of daily abuse.

The second consideration is that food processing plants naturally fall under the influence of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires food manufacturers and processors to comply with its safety and health regulations. Food safe floor coatings systems should be able to support the regulated standards on sanitation and safety set by the FDA.

FDA Flooring Systems Regulations for Food Processing Plants

The FDA has safety and hygiene regulations that require strict compliance from the food processing industry. Food processors will not be able to operate without certification from the FDA. Even existing plants are still in danger of being fined or shut down if the FDA finds evidences of non-compliance. There is also the possibility of forcible product recalls, urged by the FDA, should a quality inspection reveal violations of the standards. Any of these situations could cost the plant significant business losses.

The FDA has stringent quality guidelines for food processing facilities because it is protecting the populace against health-threatening pathogens such as e. coli, listeria or salmonella. These pathogens thrive in poorly-processed food and unsanitary environments, and can be transmitted to the food-consuming community.

Food processing plants are required to maintain clean areas at all times. This includes floorings that should be easy to clean and sanitize. This means that these products are durable and tough against sanitizing chemicals and the frequent cleaning process.

FDA Food Safe Floor Coatings and Finishes

Section III of the Food Establishment Plan Review Guide covers the FDA’s design, installation and construction recommendations for food facilities. Part 10 of this section covers specific guidelines on floor finishes.

Quarry or commercial grade vinyl composition tile, as well as seamlessly-poured and sealed concrete are the approved finishes for kitchens, food preparation and storage rooms, and the waste disposal and washing areas in food manufacturing facilities. This is also true for walk-in refrigeration and freezer areas, with the addition of stainless steel and poured synthetic materials. The use of any materials aside from these must be submitted to the FDA for evaluation and approval.

The reason why these finishes are acceptable is that they make for smooth, non-absorbent and easy-to-clean floorings. Additionally, food safe floor coatings of epoxy-, silicone- or polyurethane-based materials are required to maintain the flooring performance and provide long-lasting performance.

FDA regulations do not cover any specific floor coating formulation, per se. The material composition of the coatings is what is considered in determining food safe floor coatings. Non-toxic materials are preferred, as well as materials that would not provide an environment for harmful pathogens or food contaminants to proliferate.

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