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CWS' ambient ready meals department.

CWS' Ambient Ready Meals Department

The Co-operative Wholesale Society is currently spending a considerable sum of money at its 13.5 acre Lowestoft site. Figures of some 9m. [pounds] are mentioned as being the total involved. Already the plant is one of the largest fruit and vegetable canneries in Europe but it is now able to supply both its Co-op stores and own label customers with long life ambient ready meals from a department that has just been opened. Unlike chilled or frozen meals, these new products can be held at ambient temperature for up to a year with no deterioration.

The cannery itself is also benefiting from part of this massive investment and already three triple drum continuous rotary FMC sterilizers have been installed and a number of Doboy shrinkwrap units. Five lines feature Doboy infeed collators, tray loaders, a moving beam sleeve-wrapper and shrink tunnel producing 35 trays containing a dozen cans a minute. A factory has been on the site since the early 1930's and originally it was involved purely in fish canning but all that has changed over the course of time. In fact, whilst they are currently only just over half way through the programme of investments, it is interesting to note that another part of the site has already been cleared for building a pickles and sauces plant so that such production can be transferred from their Reddish site.

The new Ready Meals Production Centre was officially opened near the end of last month and its products are made without the aid of artificial preservatives, colourings or other additives. Such meals are produced in microwaveable plastics tray that can be stored quite simply at ordinary temperatures without anyill-effect. This particular production centre is the showpiece of their investment which also includes the aforementioned continuous cookers and high speed shrinkwrapping lines, and a Hi-Cone multi packaging unit for cans, a 'bright can' pallestising system, a bulk tomato puree plant and a battery of high speed filling machines. The company claim that, when all is complete, the site will be producing a wider range of products than any other food factory in the UK.

The new ready meals production unit is singularly different from the cannery. The accent is on hygiene in a different way because, unlike the cannery, the product cannot rely on a fairly heavy sterilization to ensure its keeping quality. All the walls are made from plastics coated steel sheet and a Quiligotti flooring system has been installed. All employees are clad from head to toe in special clothing including hats, overalls, hairnets and rubber boots. All personal jewellery must be removed before one enters the production area, hands must be scrubbed and boots sterilized in a disinfectant bath. All equipment is made fully hygienic so that it can be thoroughly cleansed. Even access to the manufacturing department from the finished goods and packaging departments is controlled by Saxon Lifts Ltd's high speed automatic doors and air flow is controlled by a one-way valve system that allows air to escape but not enter. These Auto-Roll doors are made of transparent 5mm thick PVC to ensure total safety and their speed of operation is around a metre per second to allow full access without hindrance. They incorporate a pneumatic safety edge and the nine units, with a special paint finish, provide two different sizes of doorway to suit the various factory openings at Lowestoft. To provide a further check on the safety of the products, finished packed products are all stored for a fortnight and subjected to regular bacteriological tests.

Production is arranged in a logical sequence with product traversing around through the various Saxon doors from the raw material side to manufacturing, packing, holding and palletising and despatch. All raw materials are carefully stored in plastics or stainless steel containers. They either pass to or are held in a chill room. For further process work a TMI mini blancher has been installed and there are also several Skerman jacketed vessels. The high speed roller doors control exit and entry to the various rooms. After any preprocessing that is required, the products are filled into CPET Lamipac containers on a Ca.Ve.Co line that includes three depositors. In the UK such equipment comes from Dellepac Food Systems Ltd and their line comprises automatic tray denesting, conveying, sauce depositing and automatic delivery of filled trays to the sealer. Their conveyor is a 9m flighted one to carry trays past all the stations. A Model DV6 volumetric depositor handles the vegetables and there is a Model VSC stock tank with a variable speed auger to deliver product on demand. Sauce depositors are No. 3 Model D/350s and they work in conjunction with No. 2 Model TR stock tanks fitted with thermostats and stirrers. A Tektamet metal detector is in constant use as is the Hascal checkweigher to esnsure that all is correct. Underweight filled trays are segregated by means of a Model TD1/2 channeliser which has the attribute of smoothly diverting trays without spilling product. A CMBT or sealer is used to lid and close the trays which are then placed in Syspal cages via a Saxon scissor lift prior to retorting. There are three of these lift tables in use and they have been designed to interface with trolleys with demountable containers. After interfacing the trolley with the lift unit, a container is moved from its wheeled base by means of rollers over the lift table top. Safety interlocks ensure that each cage is correctly positioned before lifting or lowering can be initiated. In operation, individual trays are delivered at waist height for ease of stacking or destacking. The cages were specially designed to suit this production line. In effect, they are aluminium box pallets that hold one retort load of trays.

Their design allows them to be stacked and they incorporate a removable gate and card holder for batch information. Two Stock Rotormatronic fully computer controlled units have been installed for actual processing. These units, supplied by Planet Flowline Ltd in the UK, are claimed to provide a temperature distribution of less than plus or minus 5 [degrees] C throughout each processing vessel. Next, the trays pass through an air knife where there is another lift table and they are coded by a thermal printer. The single Videojet Excel Model 10 ink jet printer applies production codes and 'best before' dates to the individual Lamipac trays as they pass along the filling and packing line. A feature of the unit is its waterproof stainless steel cabinet and the use of ink containing less than 40 percent of solvent. The codes are applied in characters that are 12mm high for ease of legibility. Filled trays are then passed into the incubating storage chamber for a fortnight. From this point they are transferred via a further lift table out of their Syspal cages before they can enter the Bradlock cartoner. This customised unit from Bradman-Lake Ltd has to erect and handle sleeve-type cartons with inward sloping side walls and a fifth crease running the length of one side. The cartons also have die-cut windows. In operation, filled Lamipac trays are loaded into the open end of a carton manually before the machine ploughs down the flaps and seals them with hot melt. The packs are thus fully sealed and the inner tray can be seen through the window.

So whether you are into Sweet and sour pork, Chicken in a mushroom and cream sauce, Moussaka, Beef mexican, Pasta bolognese or Beef rogan josh, it could easily be that you could be purchasing any one of these products in a CWS ambient tray pack from this new facility.

Report on the Use of Artificial Sweeteners

A report into the use of artificial sweeteners has been called for by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. This move follows on from two surveys carried out by MAFF that indicate that some people consume more than the Acceptable Daily Intake of saccharin. This is particularly so for consumers of large quantities of certain kinds of soft drink and or table-top sweetener based on saccharin. More information is expected to be forthcoming early next year.

Food Processors

ICC Business Ratios have issued two new reports. Food Processors, Major examines 86 leading companies and Food Processors, Intermediate looks at a further 109 companies. These reports, both priced at 225.00 [pounds], compare and analyze the financial performance of the companies over the years 1985 to 1988. No fewer than 26 tables are published to allow the analysis in league table form so that the reader can make comparisons.

PHOTO : One of the Saxon Lifts Auto-Roll doors

PHOTO : The Ca.Ve.Co. filling line

PHOTO : The two Rotormatronic overpressure retorts
COPYRIGHT 1989 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Co-operative Wholesale Society plant supplies canned fruits and vegetables which last up to a year at ambient temperatures
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Previous Article:Food Medication Interactions.
Next Article:Survey results show value of on-pack promotion.

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