If you’re setting up a cannabis manufacturing facility it’s important to comply with food safety requirements for everything from food-safe manufacturing equipment to implementation of proper lab testing and expiration date determination. Since cannabis is consumed, it’s safe to use the standards of food-grade safety. But since the cannabis industry is quite new, it may be puzzling how to figure out which components of your equipment need to conform to these requirements.
Generally, the answer is that any surface that touches your cannabis product, or that will touch the surface that will touch your ingredients, must be deemed food grade materials. Here’s a bit more information to help you get started.
Often equipment is made out of metal, which can cause concerns if it contains any level of lead or mercury. When manufacturing food or pharmaceutical products, you must ensure that the metals used in these products are food-grade metals. What you should look for is 304 stainless steel. You can also buy equipment with 316 stainless steel, which is a more premium grade. It has better corrosion resistance if heat or moisture is a factor in your facility.
You should also be aware that steel can rust or corrode if it’s exposed to other materials such as carbon steel. Usually, there are procedures in place to prevent this from happening. For example, you may need to have an isolated storage rack for preventing your food processing equipment parts from being contaminated.
If there are other materials that are going to come into contact with your equipment you’ll want to ensure that they also work with your food-grade materials. These might be aluminum, ceramic, plastic, glass or rubber.
In most cases where aluminum is used, there is a stainless steel option. If possible, always purchase the stainless steel. Ceramic is not a wise choice for materials and should be avoided when possible due to the porous nature of the insides and the ease with which it cracks and chips.
Plastics may be used but must be of the proper food grade material. There are many food grade plastics to choose from – you can read more about them in our article about food safe plastics.
Should glass be used it is imperative that Pyrex or another borosilicate glass is chosen for its high resistance to breakage and the versatility. Glass must be examined before each use for chips, breaks, or cracks.
Even the way that the equipment is manufactured can also be a concern. If food processing equipment is hastily composed, it can result in nooks or crannies where bacteria can linger. A good precision metal fabricator will use TIG welding to create good food processing equipment parts that are perfectly smooth and do not have any faults where ingredients can get stuck and cause issues.
If you’re choosing the best food-grade equipment for your manufacturing process, or you’re hiring a precision metal fabricator to make food-grade parts for your company, you’ll need to find the best company that is experienced in this area.
It’s important to be aware that not all manufacturers will provide food-grade equipment. Often even something as simple as lead-free solder can be an issue. You need to not only find the highest quality of food grade equipment, but also to have steel tanks, conveyor belts, and any other components be nontoxic if they touch your cannabis products.