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Food Equipment Certifications: Why Do They Matter? How Do You Know if Your Food Equipment is Safe?

Around the globe, the foodservice industry continues to see increased demand for home delivery, automation and sanitation.

The industry keeps battling high turnover rates and recruitment, as well as disruptions throughout the supply chain. As a result, proper sanitation in food equipment suffers – from lack of training on cleaning equipment to the inability to source spare parts due to shortages of critical items. This can lead to limited menu item availability and increased food safety risks, which have obvious implications on sales, reputation and customer experience.

According to a survey of nearly 700 quick-service restaurant (QSR) workers and decision-makers, 70% of respondents report problems in their establishments caused by malfunctioning equipment. The survey, commissioned by NSF, a global public health and safety organization, noted common situations include workers turning off malfunctioning equipment, ignoring error messages, and skipping automatic cleaning cycles due to lack of time. As a result, whether in food processing or foodservice environments, the use of unhygienic equipment puts workers and consumers at risk.

What is food equipment certification?

It’s critical to evaluate commercial foodservice equipment against existing standards to help ensure food safety. By understanding the basic principles of hygienic design, manufacturers and operators can minimize and mitigate food safety risks. Equipment that is not thoughtfully designed can include areas that are difficult to clean, temperature danger zones that don’t store food at warm or cold enough temperatures, or materials that leach harmful elements into food. 

Third-party agencies, such as NSF, play a key role in evaluating the risks associated with commercial food equipment. Attaining product certification to a food safety standard from a certification body provides external validation that the product is cleanable, hygienically designed, and safe to use in certified applications. In fact, some restaurants and chains require proof of product certification in order to purchase and use equipment and smallwares. Public health authorities across the U.S. rely on NSF when ensuring commercial food equipment meets hygienic and food safety requirements.

What is hygienic design?

When it comes to equipment in a commercial kitchen, sanitation and hygiene should always be top of mind. The 21 NSF/ANSI standards developed by NSF for commercial foodservice equipment establish food protection and sanitation requirements for the materials, design, construction and performance of food handling and processing equipment. ANSI, which stands for American National Standards Institute, provides the standards with accreditation.

Each standard is based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Food Code and is designed to cover specific equipment (e.g. NSF/ANSI 8 for blenders and NSF/ANSI 18 for beverage dispensers).

What’s the first step to getting certified?

To determine which commercial foodservice equipment standard(s) apply to a product, first ask:

  • What is it? (e.g. coffee maker)
  • What does it do? (e.g. brew coffee)
  • What parts are used to do it? (e.g. tubing, water reservoir, warming plate)
  • Which standard scope applies? (e.g. NSF/ANSI 4)

Using a science-based certification process, NSF’s team of food safety experts evaluate and test for:

  • Hygienic design and construction: Equipment needs to be cleanable and demonstrate an inability to harbour bacteria, dirt and debris.
  • Material safety: Any material in contact with food during normal use cannot leach harmful chemicals into the food.
  • Performance: When applicable, a product must meet a standard’s minimum requirements for holding food at safe temperatures and delivering clean-in-place procedures.

The process also involves a facility visit, during which an auditor reviews production and issues any non-compliances with the standard. Once non-compliances have been resolved, an official certificate is presented, the product is added to NSF’s product listing, and permission to use the NSF mark is granted. To maintain certification, the manufacturer must meet requirements via annual audits, applicable 5-year re-tests and 5-year re-evaluations of certified equipment.

What are the benefits of having foodservice equipment certified?

Regulators rely on sanitation standards to ensure commercial foodservice equipment is properly designed for mitigating the risk of foodborne illnesses. Only NSF-certified products can use the NSF certification mark. The mark lets the end user know a product meets minimum standards requirements for reducing possible chemical, microbiological and physical risks.

Manufacturers who certify their commercial food equipment to the industry’s highest standards can rest assured they are meeting all applicable U.S. sanitation requirements. Completing the certification process helps address potential risks that could result in bigger issues over time. Foodservice operators also benefit from using NSF-certified equipment, as they know it is easily cleanable, which can result in a higher level of kitchen hygiene and stronger audit scores.

As manufacturers continue to improve and modernize food equipment and operators utilize the equipment in their establishments, understanding food equipment certification and why it matters is more important than ever before.

For more information about food equipment certification, contact NSF at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..