Cheap rubber could damage the food industry

Posted on 5 Aug 2016 by Fred Tongue

The food industry needs to do more to ensure its supply chain is using the right material to avoid contamination later in the process warns a leading rubber supplier.

Bosses at MacLellan Rubber believe that the recent news of a large-scale recall by a well-known yoghurt manufacturer could be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number and severity of the issues facing the sector.

Rubber manufacturer bosses, Simon Winfield and Andrew Onions believe that less that 10% of the rubber used for gaskets and seals purchased for use in Europe and the UK are produced there. This means that they might not meet strict EU and UK regulations.

The two believe that, despite larger businesses ensuring that all of their processes comply with rules and regulations, there is less strictness further down the supply chain and could cause huge issues if found in food.

Director of MacLellan Rubber, Simon Winfield explained: “You only have to look at the example this week to see the negative publicity it caused and that didn’t even go into detail on the cost of the ‘recall’ and any compensation that might follow.

“There has definitely been a decline in the quality of imported rubber sheeting from the Far East and Asia, which independent tests have shown to contain high levels of chemicals that leach from the material or are released when temperatures are raised.

“Being Food Safe is a legal obligation and manufacturers shouldn’t assume because the material their suppliers are using is white or blue that it meets this requirement. They need to dig deeper into the supply chain and obtain the necessary documentation and evidence to prove compliance.”

He continued: “The big issue is that the people involved in purchasing are making their decisions based on price and not on quality or compliance.”

Established in 1871, MacLellan Rubber specialised in the manufacture and distribution of rubber sheets, rolls, industrial matting and sealing solutions.

The Wolverhampton-based manufacturer has just signed an agreement that sees all of its food grade rubber manufactured in Europe, sourced from European compounders and 100% batch tested. This means the firm can offer full raw material traceability can compliance to all of the relevant quality standards.

It has also invested more than £100,000 in new stringent controls and pre-production equipment cleaning, whilst all staff are fully trained and boast significant technical expertise.

Director, Andrew Onions added: “We are trying to educate the major food processors and their supply chains that ‘cheap imports’ are not the answer long-term…the material deteriorates rapidly under heat or when cleaning fluids are passed along it.

“With a little more up-front investment in ‘Food Safe’ rubber, the industry can eliminate any risk that seals and gaskets could be the cause of the contamination.”

He concluded: “We are seeing a slight change where imports from Far the East are being replaced by UK or European material. However, there is a massive way to go until the industry is operating at the necessary standards.