Drip, Drain, and Draw – Is Your Machine Meeting Your Sanitation Requirements?

By Harpak-ULMA
Posted In : hygienic, sanitary

Avoid harmful bacteria buildup on your packaging machine by following sanitation requirements. Machine designs should not allow moisture collection and other harmful particulates. A particular emphasis should be put on points of product contact where the exposed product can be compromised.

Additionally, ready to eat meats and cheeses don’t require cooking to kill harmful bacteria so it’s on the producers and packagers to deliver a safe, bacteria-free product to their customers.

To help make sure your packaging machine and its design don’t foster the growth of harmful bacteria around points of product contact, industry experts refer to: Drip, Drain, and Draw.

When analyzing a machine’s design ask yourself if there are any points where moisture or particulates could fall, or drip, into the product. For instance, you wouldn’t want anything above the product that could drip down and potentially contaminate the exposed food. Drain means that surfaces should be slanted down for washdown (water) runoff to avoid liquid pooling that can lead to bacterial growth. And draw is more general and refers to any design flaws that can draw bacteria to the surface of the machine and contaminate the product.

Understanding drip, drain, and draw on your packaging equipment design helps to ensure that you meet your food products’ sanitation requirements.


Liquid accumulation leads to bacterial growth that causes contamination. The drip, drain, and draw design principle helps ensure water does not pool in spots around your machine and in some way transfer into the food packaging. Bacteria should be avoided for all food products, but it’s especially important in ready to eat foods like cheese and deli meats. For raw food that requires cooking, any bacteria will die off once the food reaches a certain internal temperature. On the other hand, ready to eat products must be completely free from harmful bacteria and safe to eat directly from their packaging.

Another distinction and point of emphasis for bacteria avoidance is food contact areas in the packaging production line. Food contact areas not only include the conveyers and spots where food is clearly exposed going through your packaging machine, but also the food contact side of the film or tray. Liquid that gets into the film can contaminate your food when it makes product contact. And if liquid is pooling in an area of the machine before your food is packaged then bacteria can come into product contact and spread throughout the rest of the line. Knowing and identifying key areas of product contact will help you avoid this.


Drip refers to any contaminant, usually liquid, that can drip into the packaging, onto the product, or onto a product contact surface area. Drips can come from anywhere above or near your line, such as a piece of machinery, a control panel that hangs above an in-feed conveyer or even the ceiling of your plant. At-risk drip areas need to be eliminated or closely monitored to ensure no water or contaminants enter the product. In washdown environments your line and product are most at risk from drip.


During and after washdown, properly designed machines ensure the water is drained from all components to eliminate pooling and dripping. A washed belt should be sufficiently drained, but if the structure guiding or holding the belt held water and didn’t drain properly, the risk would be contamination of the clean belt.

To prevent improper draining, angled surfaces and shafts are designed at a 32-degree radius on sanitary design packaging machines to guarantee water runs off onto the ground. Similarly, sanitary-design tables are built with solid structure or angled stainless steel and all joints are welded to prevent moisture or liquid from getting in. If a machine contained a square or tubular structure, and if just one hole were drilled in that tube, or if there were any unwelded crevices, moisture could get inside the tubing and bacteria could start growing. Every little area and detail must be accounted for and support proper draining.


Draw refers to anything, such as water or grease, that could be drawn, or pulled, into the line contaminating the product. For example, if a shaft has a bearing at each end, and the bearing wears down, then grease could get drawn onto the conveyor belt and into the product. But, if the shaft is designed at a specific radius (32 degrees) and bearings are spaced correctly grease would only travel to the shaft and be drawn away from the product contact surface.

Sanitary design

Drip, drain, and draw design principles are useful in considering the design of your packaging machine. While every product is different and requires unique solutions, certain standard factors must be considered. Where are the points of product contact? Are there any parts of the equipment above the line that could cause dripping? Is the machine conducive to proper runoff so water doesn’t pool? Does your product require a packaging equipment line with sanitary design or a washdown design?

If you’d like to learn more about the drip, drain, and draw principle and how it applies to the packaging machine you’re looking for, feel free to reach out to our team of packaging equipment experts. We’re here to help in any way we can.

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