Masked woman working in food factory quality assurance

LED Food Industry Lighting

Optimizing Food Industry Lighting For More Resilient Operations

Being successful in the food industry means balancing many constantly changing variables–rising consumer expectations for safety, transparency, and “natural ingredients,”–all while managing an increasingly volatile supply chain. Recalls are becoming both more frequent and more expensive. Add in the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying labor shortage, and it’s an incredibly challenging time all around. 

Operationally, food industry lighting is one of the tools organizations can use strategically to build resiliency and efficiency in their facilities, and increase the safety of both team members and customers. With LEDs, organizations can also tap into consumers’ growing passion for sustainability, which has even started to influence how they view what it means to be healthy.

Kombucha with grapefruit on cutting boardKombucha with grapefruit on cutting board
Today's consumers have strong opinions about the food they eat. They want natural, healthy ingredients, and they are more invested than ever in the sustainability of the food chain and how organizations are addressing their carbon footprint.

Why Food Industry Lighting Standards Exist

For obvious reasons, companies that belong in the food and beverage industry are expected to meet a high standard of cleanliness and worker safety, both of which can be improved with appropriate lighting. At the most basic level, adequate lighting ensures everyone can see surfaces clearly, which means anyone tasked with cleaning can ensure they did the best job possible; Team members can more easily spot contaminants, like mold or evidence of pests. 

Beyond that, shards from broken or shattered bulbs can end up in food products, which means a definite recall. Food safe lights also do not have visible screws or other componetns that could end up in your product. Also, food industry lighting must be able to handle rigorous washdown processes, to prevent mold and bacteria. Proper lighting also contributes to a safer work environment, reducing the risk of accidents

Well lit food factory interior

NSF Certified Lighting and NSF Zones

The NSF certication is one certification that determines if light products are appropriate for different parts of food and beverage operations. NSF International is an independent product testing organization with establighed guidelines specific to the industry and purpose of each product. It also ensures that each product’s claims and labels are accurate and keep the promises made to consumers.

NSF International has three different certifications relevant to the food and beverage industry: 

  • Non-food zone
    This applies to areas like kitchens, storage spaces, or damp process areas with no drip possibilities. Normal operations would typically not include direct contact with food products. 
  • Splash zone
    Splace zones are just what they sound like–areas that would not be expected to include contact with food products during normal operations, but the light fixture could reasonably experience spillage or splashes from liquids used in processing or cleaning procedures. An example would be an area using hose washdowns. 
  • Food zone
    Food zones include anywhere direct contact with food is expected. This typically doesn’t pertain to lighting, but would to work tables, cutting boards, and other parts of the facility. 

A fixture that is IP69K rated meets these criteria. The 6 means it is dust tight (allowing no ingress of dust) and the 9K means it is protected against close-range high pressure, high temperature spray downs.

Lights Lasting Longer in Cooler in Environments

Much of the work in the food industry is conducted in harsh environments. Cooler temperatures are often part of that, whether it’s storage, coolers and refrigerators, or meat processing plants. There are lights specifically manufactured to withstand these cool temperatures, which means more efficient operations and more reliable light sources. 

Helping Manage Pest Control

Pests are a significant threat to any part of food production. Mice and rodents alone can carry dozens of disease and cockroaches are a common source of Ecoli and other bacteria. Birds, spiders, and flies are common pests that disrupt work and increase the risk of costly recalls. While organizations need to take many steps to protect their operations from pests of all types, outdoor lighting is going to be part of the overall strategy.

LED outdoor lighting is an excellent choice for food industry facilities, because LEDs emit significantly less heat and UV rays than other types of lights, both of where are major attractions of bugs. When possible, consider placing your exterior light sources a little bit further away from doors, cracks, gaps, and other openings, if you can do so while still properly illuminating the building. These parts of your building are prime spots for infiltration, so keeping any light in close proximity to them can increase your risk. 

Making Operations More Sustainable

Sustainabilty is a critical aspect to protecting your long-term operations because in the food industry, customer perception leads everything. It drives what regulators eventually require on food labels, what is considered healthy or unhealthy, and even which brands are considered trustworthy. 

Today’s customers (especially Gen Z) are focused not only on the end product itself, but its overall environmental impact, as well as the sustainabilty efforts of the organizations that bring it to market. The food industry and climate change are becoming increasingly interconnected in their minds. A whopping 73% of surveyed Gen Z consumers are concerned about the environmental impact of their food.

Using high-quality LED lights and fixtures will protect your operations by saving you money, but also ensure that your organization is aligned with the values of your customers. This is increasinbly important to consumers and driving their purchase decisions. 

Contact our commercial sales team to learn more about how we can provide you with the best possible lighting for your organization.

November 10, 2022