Blog, Shelving

The importance of using galvanized steel for food storage

When it comes to the food industry, businesses throughout the Greater Toronto Area have the unique responsibility of manufacturing or selling products that adhere to health and safety standards. Before food items reach the public, however, they have to be stored in a safe, protected environment. In restaurants, kitchens, or warehouses, the preferred food storage options are shelves, and one type enjoying a surge in popularity is galvanized steel shelving units.

ShelvingMate is the storage shelving solutions leader in the Greater Toronto Area and provides a wide range of galvanized steel shelving options to a variety of industries and businesses, including restaurants and other organizations in the broader food industry that deal with manufacturing, distribution, and sales to consumers. Each of the galvanized shelving units we sell are custom configurable, can be accessorized, and are considered “food grade” because they can store food without the threat of contamination, possible with other shelf coating materials.

About Galvanized steel shelving

Galvanized steel shelving units are made from steel with anti-corrosive properties thanks to the chemical process it goes through during manufacturing. Each roll of steel used to make the shelves we sell are coated with several layers of zinc oxide, which protect it from rusting and makes it impervious to environmental damage – rain, ice, snow, high heat and humidity, and extreme cold. One of the reasons galvanized steel shelves are so popular within the food industry is because the coating is durable and hard to scratch, making it ideal for applications in commercial kitchens or other high traffic areas.

In order to make the steel rust resistant, it’s combined with another alloy – zinc – that is less likely to corrode when exposed to rain or water. As the steel is submerged in liquefied zinc, a chemical reaction happens, permanently bonding the two together. But this shouldn’t be confused with applying paint or another type of sealer because that’s not what happens. In this case, the zinc becomes a permanent part of the steel, hence the phrase “galvanized” steel. The outer layer is all zinc, but subsequent layers are a combination of zinc and iron, with the interior made of pure steel.

One form of galvanization is called “Hot-dip” galvanization, and is the process of coating the steel with a thin zinc layer by passing it through a molten bath of zinc at a temperature of around 460 degrees Celsius, or 860 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the metal is exposed to oxygen, the zinc turns into zinc oxide; when the zinc oxide is exposed to carbon dioxide, it goes through another metamorphosis and becomes zinc carbonate. Zinc carbonate is usually a dull grey, fairly strong material which inhibits or stops further corrosion and protects from environmental damage.

Galvanized steel shelving is ideal for the food industry, where product is often stored in near freezing conditions to preserve taste and other properties. If necessary, these types of shelves can easily resist damage when they come into contact with high temperature surfaces of nearly 200 degrees Celsius or 392 degrees Fahrenheit.

What are the steps of the hot-dip galvanization process?

  • The steel is thoroughly cleaned from oil, grease, and dirt using a caustic solution to kill bacteria or other contaminants.
  • The galvanized steel is then rinsed off.
  • During this process, it’s not unusual for the surface to be coated with a thin flaky layer of iron, oxide, hematite, or magnetite which is removed with a pickled acidic solution.
  • The pickling solution is rinsed off.
  • Zinc ammonium chloride is then applied to the steel to prevent oxidation of the clean surface when exposure to air. Oxidation would occur if some of the layers of the steel are damaged before the zinc ammonium chloride is applied.
  • The steel is “hot dipped” into the molten zinc bath and kept there until its temperature matches that of the zinc bath.
  • Finally, the steel is cooled in a “quench” tank to reduce its temperature. Afterward, it can undergo further processing and be made into rolled steel for different applications.

Galvanized shelving and the benefits to the Food Industry

While galvanized steel shelving is well known for its wide range of applications in construction and industrial settings, it’s only fairly recently that galvanized steel shelves have become acceptable within the food industry.

Food grade shelves are slowly gaining in popularity for many of the same reasons such shelves are used in other settings, among them:

  • Galvanized coatings often cost less than other types of protective coatings for steel.
  • Galvanized steel shelving is almost invariably more economically in the long run because it lasts longer and requires less maintenance.
  • A longer life. The galvanized coatings on steel shelves can last 20 to 25 years in most settings depending on environment, and some are expected to last upwards of 50 years.
  • Galvanized steel shelves are extremely reliable, made from the highest quality 3.1B certified high tensile steel coils available.
  • Toughest coating. A galvanized coating has a unique metallurgical structure which gives outstanding resistance to the kind of damage you might see within a busy commercial kitchen or other food industry-related setting.
  • Every part of galvanized steel shelves is protected from corrosion or other damage.
  • Galvanized steel shelves, because they are so durable, are very easy to inspect for damage. If the galvanized coating appears smooth and consistent to the naked eye, chances are there is no underlying damage.
  • Galvanized steel is extremely rust resistant and can easily weather high humidity which may be experienced in an industrial kitchen, or the extreme cold the shelving would be subjected to from industrial grade freezers or other cooled areas.

Whether you’re interested in rack mounted galvanized steel shelving units, stand alone shelving, or storage options in another configuration, the specialists at ShelvingMate can help you find a solution that accommodates your needs and budget restrictions. For more information or to receive a free quote, call us at 1-844-276-2607.

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