Buhler Sortex Limited

Coupled with the ever present need for greater capacity, efficiency and profitability that are driving the activities of rice processors everywhere, vital requirements such as food safety and hygiene are becoming the benchmarks for successful operations in this increasingly competitive market.

An interview with Rustom Mistry, Director, Sortex& Rice – Bühler Group China and Southeast Asia, reveals the importance of food safety and hygiene and what processors must do to ensure the safety and integrity of their end products.


Buhler Hygenic Rice Processing Plant

What is the motivation behind the need for food safety and hygiene today?

Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding regarding safety in food supply.. Foodborne illnesses are adirect consequence of consumption of contaminated foods, and rice, like any other crop, is at risk of contamination from many quarters. The  contaminants include agricultural or processing chemicals, ranging from insecticides to factory lubricants; foreign materials such as metal, glass, sticks, and other grains ;biological contaminants such as pests , insects, molds, mycotoxins or bacteria.

With increasing demand for rice and complex supply networks,millers need to become more aware of the implications of producing contaminated product and are becoming more vigilant about safety.Safety concerns prevail throughout the supply chain and reflect the need for attention to food safety at every stage of production. Earlier, the requirements of certification and third party auditing were needed to be fulfilled only by exporters that faced the challenges of food safety. However, as Domestic and International Food Regulation Agencies put ever greater emphasis on food safety, this issue has begun to spread inexorably onto the agenda for local rice producers as well.


How is Buhler involved in influencing food safety and hygiene?

They need to comply with retailer audits of hygiene standards, so they need equipment that is designed for hygiene and is easy to clean. Bühler, with its international and worldwide expertise and global presence, with local understanding of each market is ready to serve the industry to make a step-change in the field of safe and hygienic rice processing.

Bühler has long partnered with rice processors globally in the production of high quality rice products. Critically, however, beautiful shiny rice does not guarantee food safety and careful attention is needed at every step of production in order to assess and eliminate the risks at each stage.

For rice processors, a formal Food Safety Management System, supported by a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) programme, is fundamental to ensuring food safety and integrity of the end product. Interestingly, regulators are increasingly looking to HACCP as a mandatory requirement for all food processors and handlers.


What is a HACCP programme all about?

HACCP involves conducting a hazard analysis, i.e. assessing the contamination potential for each step of the production process and identifying measures to prevent or reduce the contamination or ‘hazard’. Such processing points where there is significant risk of contamination are determined as Critical Control Points (CCP). Critical limits need to be established for these, together with the corrective actions required to eliminate or control the hazard/contamination, if it arises. Once the process is assessed, CCPs identified and the corrective actions established, the processors can set up systems to monitor each CCP and maintain a record of the results of their monitoring. Verification procedures must be put in place that allow processors to monitor that their HACCP system is working well.Moreover it enables processors to document  sanitation logs, supplier agreements, shipping documents retained, to allow cross-reference against any contamination that may arise.


Although HACCP cannot completely eliminate the risk of a hazard entering the rice product, it certainly helps to decrease the possibility to more acceptable levels. As the old adage goes ‘without monitoring and measurement, it is impossible to control a process’, and HACCP, when effectively deployed – and, importantly, continuously reviewed and improved – goes a long way to bringing the risk of contamination down to acceptable levels.


What other elements can help the processors to achieve greater safety and hygiene in plant?

The design of a plant and its equipment plays a fundamental role in preventing potential contamination and provides a conducive environment for the hygienic production of rice.


If designed with clear zoning and pre-determined space for operation, maintenance and the movement of personnel, a plant will already be one step ahead in terms of providing an environment that fosters hygienic production. A plant’s structure, as well as the conduits for its utility supplies also needs to be constructed with sanitation in mind; and, critically, today’s plants must operate ‘dust free’ at all times, as areas where dust or rice particles can collect represent areas with significant potential for contamination. Therefore, all equipment and accessories, such as bins and hoppers, must be designed to reduce the risk of dust build-up.


How should well-designed equipment and plant be?

The plant should be designed to have an ‘airlock entry’, to avoid dust coming into the plant, and have smooth flooring, sealed and rounded off where it meets the  walls, to avoid crevices where dust can built-up. Critically, a well-designed aspiration system must be built in to every modern plant seeking to meet today’s stringent standards of good product quality, sanitation and hygiene. Any aspiration system must be engineered well, in order to meet the stringent criteria necessary to achieve a ‘dust free’ plant.


In a plantease and speed of cleaning is vital; coupled with the avoidance of any crevices or hard edges on the housing or internally that can allow dust to accumulate. Bühler equipment features easy access through easily removable machine covers and screens, etc. that are simple and quick to change; and sealing systems that prevent any dust leaking out into the plant. Any surfaces that come into contact with the food comply fully with the prevailing food contact materials regulations; and the equipment itself is designed to be either well sealed to the floor or clear of the floor, to ensure thorough cleaning at the base of the machine.


What particular advantages does Bühler equipment bring?

Bühler’s state-of-the-art rice processing solutions are designed for continuous and trouble-free operation; carefully designed and calculated on paper, prior to installation, to ensure efficient and rapid fulfilment from order to commissioning. Every element of design is tailored to the highest international safety and hygiene standards, including the optimum design of aspiration and spouting systems, as well as built-in space for operation and maintenance around each machine. All our solutions meet and invariably exceed customer expectations and the EC’s Machinery Directive, which dictates that all processing machinery is safe and contributes to the prevention of contamination.


Flexibility for the future is incorporated into Bühler’s design. Automation brings less down time and more effective production up-time, while higher yields and lower power consumption costs are possible, thanks to cutting edge technology and Bühler’s extensive engineering expertise. Excellent design and good automation ensures immediate start-up with no choking in plant.  Pneumatic slide gates automatically close following power cuts, preventing the machine from crushing product during the restart, thus reducing brokens and increasing yield.  Ultimately, Bühler understands and embraces the sanitation requirements of a modern, dust free plant that meets the need of international standards, and maintains its aesthetic appeal, making the plant an enjoyable environment to work in and a source of pride for mill owners and personnel alike, for decades to come.

Where is Bühler’s expertise already bringing benefits to rice processors?

We have already installed processing plants throughout the world, to support rice processors in meeting today’s stringent safety and hygiene requirements.


In the US, Bühler worked with the largest mill in California, on a 75 t/h facility that transforms paddy to white rice, 24 hours a day, with the minimum risk of contamination. In India, the most important exporter of first class basmati and other rice varieties, turned to Bühler to create the ideal layout of its multi-floor system, with low operating costs, giving maximum yield, with low breakages, at a rate of 20 t/h.


Other installations include a fully automated plant, which increased the capacity and lowered operating costs for Thailand’s number one rice exporter of first class quality rice, a 40t/h paddy to white rice production process in China and a specially developed Pneumatic RiceLift for the pneumatic conveying of Japonica rice in Japan. The RiceLift gives flexible, residue free conveying, eliminates grain breakage, and helps Japanese processors fulfil on the high standards of traceability, sanitation and HACCP they require.


What does the future hold?

Rice processing plants in future will inevitably move from manual operation to industrialised and automated plants, based on both single and multi-level floor concepts, capable of processing multiple different rice varieties. They will feature the ultimate in product safety and hygiene, tracking product, to ensure that the end consumers feel safe about the food they buy. Currently, this is critical to exporters, but will also affect domestic producers, in the longer term. Food safety has been a topic that has been addressed for a long time in the food industry and will now be enforced in many rice exporting countries, as the basic prerequisite for export. Bühler, with its international and worldwide expertise and global presence, with local understanding of each market is ready to serve the industry to make a step-change in the field of safe and hygienic rice processing.

Buhler Sortex Limited
Buhler Sortex Limited


About Bühler

Bühler is a global leader in the field of process engineering, in particular production technologies and services for making foods and advanced materials. Bühler operates in over 140 countries and has a global payroll of over 10,000. In fiscal 2013, the company generated sales revenue of CHF 2,322 million.

Rustom Mistry, Director, Sortex& Rice – Bühler Group China and Southeast Asia
Rustom Mistry, Director, Sortex& Rice – Bühler Group China and Southeast Asia


About Rustom Mistry:

Rustom A. Mistry has been with the Bühler Group for 19 years and is currently Director of Buhler’s Sortex and Rice business units in China and South East Asia.  He is responsible for top and bottom line figuresand developing the business in the Region.  He manages the research and development, technology, engineering and product management. A mechanical engineer by profession, Rustom spent seven years with Bühler in India, followed by eight years at Bühler’s headquarters in Switzerland and thenon to Germany before moving to work in China and South East Asia – where he has been for the past 4 years.