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Things You Need To Know About Food-Grade Stainless Steel

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08/09/2021

When it comes to the production of food, it is important for the producer to keep food safety as their highest priority. Pipes that are made from materials that may rust or corrode over time could lead to contamination of food products, which could open up a manufacturer to a load of legal trouble.

This is why, throughout the production process, from harvesting, handling and storing to cooking and serving, stainless steel is used to prevent contamination. Head on over to your kitchen. How many pieces can you count that are made of stainless steel? Quite a number of them, we believe! From the cutlery we use, to many pots and pans we cook in and even the small and large appliances we frequently use, food-grade stainless steel is one of the most common materials used when it comes to handling food.

What is Stainless Steel?

A combination of many metals, stainless steel is an alloy that is resistant to rust and tarnishing. It is made from iron ore, chromium, nitrogen, silicon, carbon and manganese. The chemical composition of stainless steel needs to have a minimum amount of 10.5% chromium and a maximum of 1.2% carbon by mass. Chromium is the element that gives stainless steel its anti-corrosion qualities. However, contrary to popular belief, stainless steel is not actually 100% stainless, but can actually withstand abuse for much longer than standard steel without showing any signs of wear and tear. It is also easy to sanitise, making it the ideal material to use for food and kitchen applications.

These anti-corrosion qualities can further be enhanced by adding elements like nickel, niobium, manganese, titanium and molybdenum. The various grades of stainless steel are dependent upon their composition.

Why is Stainless Steel Used in the Food Industry?

-         Easy sanitising

The food industry needs to work with materials that are not only resistant to rust and corrosion but are also easy to clean and sanitise. Other materials, such as wood and plastic may have microscopic grooves or seams where bits of food can get lodged. These bits of food then become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and may cause food poisoning and other problems when food is cooked on the contaminated surface.

In order to be food-grade, stainless steel must be bead blasted or micropolished to strip away the surface layer of steel to reveal a more uniform surface. This process is used when a smooth uniform finish is required and the part must have a dull satin finish.

-         Corrosion resistant

Corrosion most commonly occurs due to oxidation. Ferrous metals (metals that contain iron) are prone to rusting when exposed to the oxygen present in water. Over time, this rust will corrode the metal, damaging its structural stability and also contaminating the food passing through the pipes. Because water is almost always used at some point in the production of food, it is important for food production factories to invest in food-grade pipes made of stainless steel.

The corrosion-resistant properties of stainless steel can be attributed to chromium, which is highly reactive to oxygen. When it comes in contact with any form of oxygen in the air, it forms a passive layer of chromium oxide on the surface of the pipe, which then protects the pipe from reacting with the materials flowing through the pipe during the production process.

-         Heavy-duty application

Stainless steel is very durable and extremely strong and can withstand severe heat and below-freezing temperatures. The nickel content of the stainless steel alloy adds to its strength, toughness and ductility, and also protects it against damage when exposed to strong acids. This is a major reason why the metal is so frequently used in kitchen and food production applications, as its superior strength renders it suitable for use in many different kinds of conditions. It’s durability also makes it a very cost-effective material as it can last for up to 50 years when properly cared for.

-         Recyclable

Did you know that stainless steel is fully recyclable with no degradation in performance from product to product? This is one of the reasons why it is such a popular material for food industry that are more environmentally conscious. Because of its durability, it lasts years in the first place, and when it finally comes time to replace the equipment, industries can rest assured that none of the material will end up polluting the landfills. More importantly, it also does not leach out any of its chemicals when in contact with elements such as water, making it completely safe for the environment and for use in food applications.

Why Choose Jacob UK

According to the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration), to be considered food-safe, a material must be durable, non-absorbent, corrosion-resistant, finished to have a smooth, easily cleanable surface, possess significant weight and thickness to withstand repeated warewashing and resist scratching, chipping, decomposition, pitting or scoring.

All of these requirements are met by Jacob UK’s wide range of food-grade stainless steel pipes that come in a number of sizes. Providing the food industry with a full range of food-grade pipes and pipe components that are specifically designed to meet the regulations set out by the EC 1935/2004 and the FDA, our range includes everything from compensators and gaskets, blue seals, segments and bends to pneumatic valves and diverters. A number of our products also come in the detectable design series, which contains minuscule metallic particles in their composition that can be easily detected using a metal detector in case of a breakdown.