At the moment, there are 21 commercial food production-related standards overseen by the National Safety Foundation (NSF). The 21 guidelines have been rigorously developed by the NSF with the help of another prestigious national organization, the American National Standards Institute.
Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at NSF/ANSI 51-2017, (better known as NSF/ANSI 51), a standard that has been put into place to prove the sanitary safety of many food equipment materials.
Definition of NSF Standard 51
Before we dive into the ways in which NSF/ANSI 51-2017 keeps consumers, as well as productions safe, let’s take a look at its definition, straight from the Institute itself.
NSF/ANSI 51-2017 “sets minimum public health and sanitation guidelines for materials used in the construction of commercial food equipment.” All of these standards have been designed to meet already-established FDA regulations to promote and protect public health. NSF/ANSI 51-2017 is applicable to:
- Beverage dispensers
- Cutting boards
- Other items “intended for an assortment of food equipment applications”
In its standards overview, ANSI mentions that food processing equipment rarely needs to abide by just one federal standard. In fact, several may need to be compiled in order to be considered for certification, much less compliant. While this usually covers a breadth of materials, sanitation, and safety standards, ANSI has established a limitation on materials, specifically. For a piece of equipment or component to be compliant, manufacturers can expect for limitations to be placed on the following materials:
- Stainless steel
- Aluminum alloys
- Wrought alloys
- Casting alloys
- Copper alloys
- Glass and glass-like materials
In addition to the materials, NSF/ANSI 51-2017 is usually paired with a list of finishing standards established especially for the material used. These include:
- Coating adhesion ability
To top it all off, ANSI mentions that these ability specifications come with specialized testing methods for food equipment construction materials.
To clear up any possible confusion, ANSI/NSF 51-2017 supersedes the 2014 standard. Although the guidelines are similar, the updated standard makes key clarifications about organic, as well as fluoropolymer coatings.
Benefits of True NSF/ANSI 51-2017 Certification
Seasoned pros working in the food processing manufacturing business know that NSF-certified equipment buyers, as well as end-users value products which hold these certifications. When NSF International certifies a food, water, or other consumer product, it means that all standards have been put into place to ensure the health and safety of the product.
For serious food equipment manufacturers and food equipment end-users, certification should be viewed as a necessity. Nevertheless, some try to skirt the process by skipping the certification in favor of testing the equipment on their own. In this case, manufacturers will label equipment with tags that read ‘Tested to NSF Standards’. Though the claim may sound official, it is meaningless without verification and certification from NSF.
Remember, NSF answers these 5 questions in its certification, 5 questions that are important to food processors, as well as the public at large:
- 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?
Simply put, receiving verification in the form of NSF certification from NSF International proves that the product has been tested against some of the strictest public health and safety standards in the world, a fact which gives consumers confidence in the product, as well as the product’s manufacturer.
How NSF/ANSI 51-2017 Certification Works
For most products, processes, and services, NSF certification follows the same general framework. Currently, this includes seven critical steps:
- Application and information submission
- Product evaluation
- Product testing in lab
- Manufacturing facility inspection, production confirmation and product sampling
- Test results review and acceptance
- Contract signed and products listed
- Annual plant inspection and retesting
You can begin the application process on the NSF International website. After the initial application and all required supplemental material is submitted, an NSF representative will guide you through the rest of the steps, a process that looks different for each unique product and use case.
NSF International recommends that manufacturers apply for NSF/ANSI 51-2017 and NSF/ANSI 61 concurrently. If you are manufacturing a product that contains a drinking water system, you will likely have to do both in order to ensure the highest level of safety. Additionally, the product will benefit from a set of perks, such as dual combined audits and more visibility on NSF International’s online certification product listings page.
To assure that your product is a good candidate for NSF/ANSI 51-2017 certification, use this Food Equipment Materials guide as your reference.