Spec Check: Slicers

Ease of sharpening represents another consideration when choosing a slicer. Some units offer unique sharpening mechanisms as well as options to make this process easier and more foolproof.

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When choosing a slicer, operators need to determine if attachments will be necessary. For example, vegetable chutes allow users to load in product and slice using the gravity feed principal. Adding this element can help speed up the slicing process.

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One common mistake operators make when specifying slicers is not being thorough in determining their needs and how they will use the slicer both now and in the future.

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Other common mistakes operators make when specifying slicers include making the purchase decision based solely on price and failing to take into consideration the time and safety aspects involved for cleaning the slicer.

In terms of labor, it is important to assess the difficulty and time it will take to properly clean the slicer prior to purchasing. Fortunately, the newer units include components that have been made easier and quicker to clean. Corners with radiuses are more accessible for easier cleaning and sanitizing. Removable carriage systems and sealed touch pad controls for power and chute speed are easier to clean and sanitize. A removable knife option for easier cleaning also is available. Permanently mounted knife covers allow cleaning without exposing the knife blade. Some slicers include removable components that are dishwasher safe.

Food safety also is a factor when deciding on how many slicers are necessary for a specific operation. For example, if a menu will expand to include a different item, such as cheese in addition to meat, two slicers may be necessary to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Slicers can be hazardous to operate by inexperienced personnel. Depending on the experience of the staff, additional safety features may be a wise choice to protect operators during operation and cleanup. These include table walkout mechanisms or interlocks that prevent the slicer from being turned on if the carriage is removed or can lock out the blade if the carriage tray is removed.

Slicers are available with several interlocks that not only help with safety, but also conserve energy by shutting off the machine automatically after a period of inactivity. Features that allow the operator to quickly turn off the slicer and child-proof safety switches also are available.

There are a number of slicer options operators can choose from. Top-mounted knife sharpeners offer easy access and added convenience. Full gravity feed food chutes are available on heavy-duty models. Slide bars on some slicers are designed to be continually lubricated during operation for smooth, easy carriage movement. Heavy-duty clear plastic covers offer added protection for slicers when not in use. Slicer stands and models offering noiseless operation also are available.

NSF Updates Slicer Guidelines

On Nov. 12, 2012, NSF certifications of deli slicers to the 2009 version of NSF/ANSI Standard 8 expired and were delisted. As a result, NSF Listings will be limited to deli slicers certified by NSF to the revised 2010 standard. Only slicers manufactured after Nov. 12, 2012, need to comply with the new standard.

The 2010 revisions to NSF/ANSI Standard 8, the deli slicers section, were developed by consensus through a joint committee of public health regulatory officials, food equipment manufacturers and equipment users. These updates address issues concerning deli slicers' knives, carriage trays, gauge plates, joints, seams and electrical components as well as the development of cleaning, sanitation and inspection instructions. NSF's revisions are designed to help reduce microbial cross-contamination in deli slicers that can occur as the equipment experiences wear and tear over time.

Among the new requirements are a seal or boot at the slicer base to help prevent food and juices from entering the slicer and one-piece plastic components, rather than two-piece. This revised design doesn't include seals, which can break down with repetitive cleaning, allowing food debris to accumulate.

Since slicers typically remain in use for a number of years, operators must be diligent in their inspection, evaluation and maintenance of this equipment, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA recommends that any slicer in operation should be inspected and serviced by a trained service professional before continuing use. If a public health inspector or food safety auditor indicates the deli slicer is not showing signs of long-term service life with frequent exposure to cleaning and sanitizing chemicals and there are no problems with the unit, it may remain in use. However, the FDA recommends starting a systemic replacement program using slicers certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 8 – 2010 to prevent microbial cross-contamination.

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