PET Food Processing - March 2018 - 30


"They were more collaborative
than anybody that I've ever
worked with in the past."
Aaron Merrell

ally pleased to see that Handtmann was entrepreneurial
enough to work with us through that process," Merrell
says. "When I finally knew the system would work, it
was a huge relief."

On down the line
Custom solutions are clearly the norm for Plato. Once
Plato treats are formed, the treats go into three large
dehydrators that run 24/7 but, again, not without some
modification. Plato's small bites, strips and sticks go on
trays and the trays are stacked 10-ft. high on carts and
are loaded into the dehydrators. Proper air flow and control of both temperature and humidity gives Plato treats
the texture and palatability pets love. Custom-designed
controls added needed functionality, enabling operators
to monitor and independently adjust the temperature,
humidity and air flow within the dehydrators. This custom solution allows the operator to retain moisture in
the products until a certain temperature is reached that
eliminates bacterial growth. Plato's dehydration process
retains the products' palatability and nutrients. "We've
A co-extrusion, alginate-casings system allows Plato meat sticks to
run continuously without interruption.



been on our own from day one in developing a protocol that works for us," Merrell says. "We've had to make
modifications and we've automated some things to help
make that happen and that's what has really allowed it to
work for us."
Dehydrating the treats on trays is an integral part of
the process, and those trays need to be cleaned to the
highest standards. A Mafo industrial washing system is
a simple but efficient way Plato keeps the trays sanitary.
The system, designed specifically for the dehydration
trays, uses steam for a final rinse at 185˚F, and that water
is then recycled and used for the initial rinse on the next
batch of trays before being discarded.
To minimize changeover, the company schedules long
runs of the same product, which also allows operators
to use raw material as it arrives once it passes stringent quality control. Plato's quality control team works
around the clock. Plato has invested heavily in equipment to test its ingredients. If the ingredient isn't right,
the treat isn't right.
Merrell says the company works hard to stay ahead of
the curve on quality control, sanitation and food safety.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has helped
to focus Plato's efforts, but it has not radically changed
Plato's processes much because the company was already
working toward Safe Quality Food (SQF) Certification
for Quality Code (formerly Level 3). FSMA, he says, has
just provided an added incentive for the company to attain that certification.
Plato proudly displays certification banners - currently European Union (EU), USDA Organic and NSF audit certifications - on a large wall in the entrance of the
facility, visible to both visitors and employees. Merrell's

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of PET Food Processing - March 2018