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Few of you design food-processing plants and those who do doubtless work with specialists who deal with the actual processing equipment. So you are unlikely to be familiar with two recent pieces of guidance to inform engineers and clients on the use of stainless steel. The documents, whose content was outlined at the recent conference of the British Stainless Steel Association, are exemplary.

They explain not only the potential benefits of stainless steel but also, in detail, how it should be used. This is all to do with the design and detailing of process equipment - avoiding rough points or crevices where there could be a buildup of material, leading to bacterial growth.

One of the reasons such careful guidance has been produced is that the subject is so important.

We are all concerned that our food does not poison us, even if it doesn't do us a great deal of good. There was an interesting contrast at the conference with a presentation by Jacqui Power of McCann-Erickson, who has run the Stainless Steel Appeal campaign. This has been hugely successful in persuading customers to buy stainless-steel kitchens and kitchen equipment.

Yet her latest research shows that those very customers don't know how to identify stainless steel, let alone how to judge its quality, or even know why it is good to use. And lest the profession starts to feel smug, Graham Gedge of Arup explained how often unsuitable grades of stainless steel are specified for buildings and engineering structures.

The built environment is as important as the food that we eat and although its immediate impact on our health is rarely as drastic as a heavy dose of salmonella, it is crucial for the health of the planet. If the public could be made as well informed about building elements as food processors are becoming about process plant, the job of the architect and, particularly, of defending specifications would become much easier.

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