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Scoops & Food Safety

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October 2019 | Thursday 11:55

The Important Role of Scoops in Ensuring Food Safety

Because much of the food that we now purchase from supermarkets is pre-wrapped and packed in pre-measured portions, we tend to give little thought to how it may have been handled before it arrived on their shelves. Those of the older generation may recall the days when butchers would have grabbed a portion of minced beef by hand and placed it on the scale in the days before hygiene concerns forced them to adopt the use of scoops. Today we will often see the latter used to dispense potato chips or unwrapped items such as loose olives or pre-prepared salads.

Whether for use in-store or in food-preparation areas, these simple but important tools need to be of a quality that will ensure the highest standard of hygiene. While this will obviously necessitate keeping them clean at all times, they must also be made of a material that is easy to clean and not easily damaged. Furthermore, because scoops are used to handle edibles, ensuring that they are kept free of any potentially harmful microorganisms is absolutely vital.

The only way to guarantee this is to sterilise them and, since the use of chemical agents is clearly inappropriate. In this instance, this will require steam sterilisation and the use of an autoclave. Rather like an oversized domestic pressure cooker, an autoclave boils water under pressure to produce superheated steam at around 120 °C. To ensure they are completely free of all organisms and spores, items such as these scoops must be able to withstand these condition for a minimum of 30 minutes.

While the use of metal implements is obviously an option, they tend to be heavy and prone to corrosion, so plastics are often a more practical choice of material. Vikan is a leading manufacturer of equipment for cleaning and hygiene purposes and uses only the highest quality of polypropylene to produce these products. The tough polymer is a material that can be autoclaved repeatedly without any risk that it might become damaged in the process.

Because there is always a risk of cross-contamination within the food industry, the Vikan range of scoops is available in a choice of 12 colours. This allows a company to colour-code these items so that they will only be used for a specific task. In this way, the risk of accidental cross-contamination that could, for example, introduce a potentially harmful allergen into a product that is claimed to be free of any allergens. While it is true that quality-control testing might reveal the error, it might not, while a positive result could make it necessary to destroy an entire batch of a contaminated product.

As an additional quality-control measure, some of Vikan’s polypropylene scoops actually have tiny fragments of metal embedded in their structure. Should one become damaged, it would not be easy to detect tiny particles of plastic in a product whereas any particles of metal released will easily be picked up with the aid of a metal detector.

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