Before an item of commercial catering equipment ever finds its way to a distributor’s warehouse or a restaurant’s kitchen it will probably have encountered numerous tests, checks and assessments to ensure it is fully compliant with an array of standards.
In terms of EU directives alone there are at least 20 directly applicable to the foodservice equipment industry, and that doesn’t even include the more general ones surrounding electromagnetic compatibility, machinery and gas appliances.
Indeed, with everything from electrical and water safety certifications to food hygiene and sustainability standards to consider, working out what’s important can be a minefield for catering equipment manufacturers.
“It is not possible to say one certification or standard is more important than another,” says Lee Norton, managing director of Rational UK. “For example, drinking water protection is of the same importance as handling safety and so on. As a responsible company we have to take care of everything.”
Rational, he says, has at least a dozen important worldwide certifications for its products, fulfils RoHS requirements and boasts the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accreditations for product quality and environmental protection respectively.
But if there is one conformity mark that carries a higher profile than all the rest — if only for its ubiquity — it is Conformie Europeenne, better known by its abbreviated name: CE. Legally speaking, the CE symbol is not a quality mark, but it does demonstrate that a product meets mandatory EC directives.
For most manufacturers, including Electrolux Professional, the CE mark is just the beginning. “Obviously the CE and ETL are primary types of certification, but as a global company with our products used worldwide we also look at NSF (USA) and NF (French) certification,” says business and training development manager Stuart Flint. “We also see ISO certification as primary for our equipment, so we seek out ISO 9001 standards as an indication of the quality of our products and ISO 14001 for sustainability features as a measure of environmental standards.”
Food safety certification specialist NSF, which is well-known for its activities in the US, is currently increasing its services in the UK and it believes its independent test practices provide something different to what is already available in the market.
“Currently the extent of certification of products is limited to some specific health and safety requirements, along with self-declaration and electrical testing,” clains director of technical services, Duncan Goodwin. “We bring something different to the market to aid manufacturers develop their brand reputation. We also see a greater move to extending energy efficiency certification — combining these existing marks with ours really places the manufacturer in a leading position,” he adds.
Bill Downie, managing director of warewashing supplier Meiko, notes that many manufacturers will conform to the most basic mandatory product standards, but you have to search a little deeper to get a real picture of which companies are truly investing in achieving the highest possible design and manufacturing principles.
“The discrepancies between manufacturers revolve around the standard of build quality,” he says. “Meiko uses the finest stainless steel as standard in our manufacture, for example — as well as many other components that exceed the minimum standard — but that would not be the same for another glasswasher sold at half the price.”
In addition to CE, WRAS and NSF certifications, Meiko is WEEE compliant, boasts SAFEcontractor status and has achieved ISO14001 recognition for its Environmental Management System (EMS) inside the past 12 months.
Downie says it is also certified worldwide to DIN EN ISO 9001:2008 (Quality Management Systems) standards. “The efficacy of the QMS process is monitored on a regular basis by third parties,” he notes. “Effective quality management systems increase the confidence in the capability of both customer and supplier. Again, confidence is a prerequisite in creating quality in products and services.”
Fellow warewashing supplier, Winterhalter, says its equipment conforms to more than 20 separate standards, encompassing everything from mechanical safety to food hygiene. “Generally speaking, European standards focus on performance, hygiene safety and, increasingly, efficient operation,” explains Stephen Kinkead, managing director of the UK business. “Since Europe is our home market, Winterhalter focuses on these criteria.”
Kinkead insists Winterhalter is “very proud” of its ISO 14001 certification and notes that it is also ‘TUFF’ certified — “a very rigorous German accreditation scheme”. He believes that the WRAS water safety regulations and DIN 10510 standards governing food hygiene around commercial dishwashing are particularly significant in the market sector that Winterhalter operates in.
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The issue of equipment certification and standards can be particularly exhaustive for manufacturers that are shipping their products to multiple territories, particularly if they are outside of the European Union.
King’s Lynn-based Refrigeration brand Williams says all its products are designed to meet the latest energy, environmental and food safety (HACCP) legislation for the country they are sold into, meaning it lays claim to a whole host of acronyms, including NSF, CE, HACCP, MEPS, CCC and ETL/UL.
“Williams also ensures that the company and its suppliers meet the needs of various environmental-led standards such as RHoS and WEEE regulations,” points out operations and engineering director Steve Bernard.
“We are focused on a zero tolerance leak philosophy for our products. This is very much underpinned by a need to ensure F gas certification, both for Williams products and for those who carry out installation and service on them,” he comments.
The Energy Technology List (ETL), which details thousands of products that meet government-prescribed energy efficiency criteria, and its associated tax relief scheme — the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) — have had an important role to play in establishing parameters from an environmental perspective, particularly in the refrigeration segment.
Foster Refrigerator says that when it comes to technical refrigeration issues, such as energy and temperature conformance, it will work with ECA criteria where applicable.
“Foster is heavily involved with the European Commission on the EuP programme, creating the successor to the ECA scheme which will be a European-wide mandatory compliance programme,” says Chris Playford, market and development director.
“Additionally, for legislative conformance, Foster will test representative products for conformance to the EMC directive, ensuring that our equipment does not create any negative impact on other electronic products nor is itself affected by electrical emissions from other goods.”
As a registered member of the ETL, Gram is also able to put its equipment on the list, providing that, like all companies, it supplies supporting evidence to show it meets specific energy saving eligibility criteria. This is then verified by institutions selected by the Carbon Trust, such as Cambridge Refrigeration Technology (CRT).
Gram UK boss, Glenn Roberts, says that before its equipment even gets that far it will have undergone rigorous R&D testing at its Danish headquarters, where it has a purpose-built temperature and humidity controlled
“In addition, the Danish Technical Institute also ratifies our testing as well as carrying out its own independent assessments of the cabinets,” he says. “In the UK, products are randomly selected and tested independently to ensure that the equipment coming off the production line is correct — these tests can be used by manufacturers if required.”
Of course, no certification ever comes free of charge. To go beyond the very basic mandatory requirements can be an expensive process and manufacturers will naturally expect it to deliver some sort of tangible payback.
“When Rational brought out the new SelfCookingCenter whitefficiency last year we spent more than €140,000 (£110,000) on certifications,” reveals Norton. “Every year we spend €100,000 (£78,000) keeping all these certifications current.”
Ultimately, while it’s the manufacturers that are forced to invest in achieving the standards that indicate a desired level of quality, efficiency or safety, it’s important that dealers and distributors understand exactly what they signify.
“All good, quality distributors should care about certification and it’s certainly something we shout about,” insists Electrolux’s Flint. “It’s important that the end-user looking for quality equipment is made aware of the relevant certification that the product in which they are about to invest has received.”
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Behind the acronyms
Your guide to some of the regulations and bodies defining standards and practices in the catering equipment industry:
CE: Identifies a product is compliant with mandatory health and safety requirements governed by EU directives.
RoHS: The Restriction of Use of Hazardous Substances regulations aim to curb the use of hazardous materials in electrical equipment.
WEEE: The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive promotes the reuse and recycling of such wastes as to reduce disposal.
NSF: Organisation providing HACCP, food safety, water quality, public health, and product testing services.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL): Independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organisation.
EMC/EMV: Demonstrates compliance with electromagnetic compatibility (emissions and immunity) law as well as the EMC requirements specified in the European EMC Directive 89.
WRAS: The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme ensures compliance with UK byelaws when installing equipment which will carry or receive water.