Think about the last amazing meal you had at a restaurant. The beverages, the appetizers, the meal and even the dessert all came from production lines with a delicate yet durable common denominator: o-rings.
O-ring is a technical term for a round piece of rubber, shaped like an “O,” that helps in the transportation, storage and processing industries. Rocket ships, airplanes or cars might come to mind when you hear the term, but they are also the same rubbery material that helps you enjoy that big birthday dinner or an intimate night out at your favorite restaurant.
Let’s take a look at where o-rings started and how they make an impact on the restaurant industry.
The Origin Of O-Rings
The name sounds high-tech, but it dates back to first getting a United States patent in 1937. The product was first widely used in World War II after the government bought the patent.
How An O-Ring Works
There are many technological advancements in how o-rings work today compared to 1937, but one factor stays the same — the o-rings are a rubbery round material properly placed between two parts, compressed and then sealed. The positive pressure created by the o-ring means nothing can get in and nothing can get out.
The rings are designed to withstand very high or low temperatures, certain chemicals and other environmental factors, and they mold to the space where they are compressed for that vacuum seal. Of course, all the other supporting factors must be met like correct pressure, proper placement and the right type of substance for the desired purpose.
What Does This Have To Do With Food?
The FDA requires food preparers to use “food-grade safe” o-rings and other sealing devices when distributing, transporting, storing or preparing food. These are known as “Indirect Food Additives.”
- No toxic chemicals are used to make the o-ring
- They have no odor or taste
- They naturally resist harboring or breeding bacteria
- They withstand the high and low temperatures needed to store and make food
The cup of coffee you pour from a dispenser? The heavy cream used to make that Alfredo sauce? The beer that comes from the tap? All made safe to consume from an o-ring.
Even the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets rigorous standards for o-rings used in dairy and meat products as well as assigning each o-ring a “grade” to determine their appropriate use.
Viton Fluorocarbon o-rings are food-safe seals that can be used in restaurants. They handle temperatures from -13°F to 446°F. It’s important the o-rings are made of the right material to support the temperature and repetition of use. Every o-ring has its own benefits and limits. The ones approved to be used in restaurants are also approved to come in contact with food without any contaminants being transferred.
The Future Of O-Rings
The design itself of o-rings is pretty flawless when used correctly, which leaves the improvements only to come in the types of rubber and the improvement of the ring itself.
When you dine you aren’t going to see or hear about the o-ring technology, but it’s the quality of the food, the safety of the products served and the freshness in the taste that makes you know an o-ring is helping keep the food industry moving forward.