Green Cuisine, San Fernando, CA, is a wholesale producer and packager of pre-made single-serving-size salads for west coast retail markets, including upscale grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s. Salad components are provided pre-washed by area growers. Green Cuisine’s prepared, trayed salads are not gas-flushed, but have an average refrigerated shelf life of 6 days.
The processor manufactures several thousand products daily—including approximately 22 different types of packaged salads and 5 different types of packaged deli sandwiches. A key function of Green Cuisine’s operation is proper and sanitary assembling of the salad components as they are conveyed through the production and packaging process.
Strong mechanisms to safeguard against adulteration and contamination of fresh produce during growing, harvesting, processing, and packaging are absolutely crucial, as evidenced by the recent fresh spinach scare. While that event has not been linked in any way to Green Cuisine products, the company is certainly well aware of and vigilant to the potential problems inherent in handling these types of products.
Eighteen years ago, when Green Cuisine initiated its operations, vp Hector Martinez designed and built his own conveyor to help expedite salad creation. The system operated very effectively for its time and intended purposes. But in 2005, the company invested in a larger plant and new processing equipment. In conjunction with this expansion, the company decided to upgrade the conveying equipment to better withstand the frequent washing required for sanitation and removal of contaminants and potential allergens at changeovers.
After evaluating various options, Hector Martinez selected the AquaPruf 7600 series conveyor manufactured by Dorner Manufacturing (www.dorner.com) and distributed by Fresno, CA-based Package Devices LLC (www.packagedevices.com). According to Martinez, attractive features of this system included its welded frame, open design, and zero harbor points where contaminants could lodge. The new conveyor, built to Green Cuisine’s specifications and installed in 2006, is 53 feet long and handles the entire salad assembly process. Workers, who are assisted by work tables formed from the side frames of the belt conveyor, manually add the appropriate ingredients, label, and seal each container with a security band, then prep it for shipment.
The AquaPruf 7600 features a stainless steel frame and urethane-encased belting which does not fray or absorb water, thus inhibiting mold growth. The equipment is engineered to withstand frequent high-pressure washings with water, soap, bleach, chlorine, alcohol, or foaming chlorine cleaner without concerns about corroding bearings or other system components.
Because the conveyor can be quickly disassembled for cleaning without tools, it has facilitated faster and more effective conveyor sanitation ops—twice as fast as the previous operation, according to Martinez. This saves considerably on downtime.
Every time the line is switched to a different salad—roughly every hour, but sometimes every 25 minutes—a complete wash down is needed. The welded stainless steel construction and open frame design have proven to be easy to clean and very durable. Also, the tool-less tip-up pulley provides quick access to areas beneath the belt.
Martinez concludes, “Green Cuisine has been pleased with the new belt conveyor and the excellent results it has produced. We already have ordered a 30-feet-long conveyor for creating salad dressings. We recommend a Dorner conveyor to anyone with needs for frequent wash down and sanitary design. The AquaPruf conveyor system has helped us improve our operations and expand our business. And their technicians have been very helpful to us from the beginning and even now in ensuring good operation of the system.”