The food industry needs to do more to ensure its supply chain is using the right material to avoid contamination later in the process warns a leading rubber supplier.
News of a product recall by a well-known yoghurt manufacturer has brought the topic into the headlines this week, but bosses at Wolverhampton-based MacLellan Rubber believe it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a much bigger problem for the sector.
Simon Winfield and Andrew Onions believe less than 10% of the rubber used in gaskets and seals is purchased from the UK or Europe, which means the vast majority are less likely to meet the Food Contact Regulation EU 1935:2004, 2023/26 and FDA 21 CFR Part 177.
The duo feel that whilst larger businesses are ensuring their processes are compliant there is less enforcement further down the supply chain and this can cause serious financial and reputational issues if pieces of rubber/polymer are found in food products.
“You only have to look at the example this week to see the negative publicity it caused and that didn’t even go into detail on the cost of the ‘recall’ and any compensation that might follow,” explained Simon Winfield, Director of MacLellan Rubber.
“There has definitely been a decline in the quality of imported rubber sheeting from the Far East and Asia, which independent tests have shown to contain high levels of chemicals that leach from the material or are released when temperatures are raised.
“Being Food Safe is a legal obligation and manufacturers shouldn’t assume because the material their suppliers are using is white or blue that it meets this requirement. They need to dig deeper into the supply chain and obtain the necessary documentation and evidence to prove compliance.”
He continued: “The big issue is that the people involved in purchasing are making their decisions based on price and not on quality or compliance.”
MacLellan Rubber is a specialist in the manufacture and distribution of polymer and rubber sheets and rolls, high quality industrial matting and high performance sealing solutions.
Established in 1871, the Wolverhampton company has just signed an exclusive agreement that sees all of its food grade rubber sheet material manufactured within Europe, sourced from European compounders and 100% batch tested. The latter means the firm can offer full raw material traceability and compliance to all of the relevant quality standards.
It has also invested more than £100,000 in new stringent controls and pre-production equipment cleaning, whilst all staff are fully trained and boast significant technical expertise.
Andrew Onions, Director, went on to add: “We are trying to educate the major food processors and their supply chains that ‘cheap imports’ are not the answer long-term…the material deteriorates rapidly under heat or when cleaning fluids are passed along it.
“With a little more up-front investment in ‘Food Safe’ rubber, the industry can eliminate any risk that seals and gaskets could be the cause of the contamination.”
He concluded: “We are seeing a slight change where imports from Far the East are being replaced by UK or European material. However, there is a massive way to go until the industry is operating at the necessary standards.”
In addition to its work with the food and drink industry, MacLellan Rubber supplies customers in the automotive, power utilities, petrochemical, construction, engineering, marine, mining, rail and transport sectors.
Turnover increased by £200,000 last year, with plans in place to take this past £3m by 2017.
For further information, please visit www.maclellanrubber.com or follow @macrubber