Food equipment manufacturers are regularly made to draft designs that take into consideration the many national and international safety guidelines their clients are made to follow. In a nutshell, they must pay close attention to the smooth and impermeable quality of all surfaces, beware of crevices in which food or dirt might become stuck, and design virtually all equipment in such a way that users can easily disassemble it for regular cleanings and examinations. While these rules are ones that most all manufacturers must follow and to which most clients must adhere, there is a range of boards and organizations that have been put into place to test, certify, and ultimately guarantee that the food equipment is as safe as possible.
Generally speaking, most manufacturers working from or with facilities based in the United States will be required to get a certification mark, and one of the most versatile comes from the NSF, formerly known as the National Safety Foundation, and known today as the Public Health and Safety Organization. NSF works hard to determine whether you, as a manufacturer, have met safety, and sometimes emissions, guidelines that correspond with the jurisdiction in which you operate.
Obtaining NSF Certification
Once you do go through the application process and earn this seal, it effectively means that your piece of equipment has been deemed completely safe by a range of cooperating international entities, including NSF, making for the most transparent sales experience possible.
Let’s take a look at how these safety guidelinesare assessed and how the certifications are granted:
- Physical/Onsite Evaluations: NSF will put the product through a stringent round of tests, paying extra close attention to its overall design. This will be performed in-person, either at an NSF site or, in situations in which the equipment cannot be transported, at the manufacturing site.
- Repeated Testing: Once the design of the product has been evaluated, the product will be tested for use in the very environment, or a very similar environment, for added confidence upon installation.
- Annual Follow-ups: Both the facility and product will be made to undergo annual follow-ups as a way of ensuring that the product is still working as it should. If NSF sees a problem that cannot be remedied on the spot, or if wear-and-tear ends up being more than what was initially expected, the organization reserves its right to pull the certification from the product until further review.
NSF Food Safety Guidelines and Standards
Just as food equipment isn’t one-size-fits-all, neither are NSF food safety guidelines. Below is a list of the commercial food equipment standards as they relate to specific categories of equipment. If you are currently being made to seek NSF certification for a product, you should be able to quickly identify your NSF food equipment classification below. (Once you have this information, you now have taken your first step in your certification process):
- NSF/ANSI 2: Food Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 3: Commercial Warewashing Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 4: Commercial Cooking, Rethermalization and Powered Hot Food Holding and Transport Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 5: Water Heaters, Hot Water Supply Boilers and Heat Recovery Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 6: Dispensing Freezers
- NSF/ANSI 7: Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers
- NSF/ANSI 8: Commercial Powdered Food Preparation Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 12: Automatic Ice Making Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 13: Refuse Processors and Processing Systems
- NSF/ANSI 18: Manual Food and Beverage Dispensing Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 20: Commercial Bulk Milk Dispensing Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 21: Thermoplastic Refuse Containers
- NSF/ANSI 25: Vending Machines for Food and Beverages
- NSF/ANSI 29: Detergent and Chemical Feeders for Commercial Spray-type Dishwashing Machines
- NSF/ANSI 35: High Pressure Decorative Laminates for Surfacing Food Service Equipment
- NSF/ANSI 36: Dinnerware
- NSF/ANSI 37: Air Curtains for Entryways in Food and Food Service Establishments
- NSF/ANSI 51: Food Equipment Materials
- NSF/ANSI 52: Supplemental Flooring
- NSF/ANSI 59: Mobile Food Carts
- NSF/ANSI 169: Special Purpose for Food Equipment and Devices
Know the Difference Between ‘NSF Certified’ and ‘Tested to NSF Standards’
Although it may be somewhat common to come across equipment in the food manufacturing world that is labeled with the phrase ‘Tested to NSF Standards,’ the NSF warns that the claim is a meaningless one. In order to attain a certification from NSF, the product must be first assessed and tested by the organization, against a series of questions. To better illustrate the process, below is a list of questions for all water-related food equipment products:
- Are the contaminant reduction claims verified?
- Was the system tested to verify that it adds nothing harmful to the water?
- Has the system been verified to be structurally sound?
- Has the advertising, literature and labeling been verified as accurate?
- Is there testing to verify that the materials and production processes haven’t changed, giving you consistent product quality over time?
Once you identify the standard to which your product should be tested, you are well on your way to becoming NSF-certified. NSF will test your product using similar criteria listed above to ensure that your product is safe, reliable, and ready for implementation.