The 3-A Program

The 3-A Symbol Council representing a cross-section of industry establishes the intended use of a piece of milk handling/processing equipment and then affixes established criteria or standards upon its fabrication and design. This then provides a guide to a manufacturer and fabricator and a legal document.

Each standard defines the applicable product, the product contact surface, and the non-product contact surfaces applicable to the piece of equipment. The definitions also define fabricating materials which are predominantly limited to the 300 series of stainless steel. The application and usage of the equipment is so rigid that the introduction of alternative materials is nearly impossible. This maintains strict control of the fabricating materials to the adherence with the written standard.

In fabrication, strict limitations are placed on sharp internal corners by specifying minimum radius requirements. The standards also have provisions for bonding and welding, accessibility of surfaces, self-draining characteristics, protection of product through using overlapping covers, gasket groove dimensions, elimination of threads in the product zones, floor clearance, etc. The standards also provide specific details of fabrication and workmanship criteria and specifies a No. 4 finish which is equated to a surface polished by 150 grit silicon carbide abrasive. The standard does permit a 2-B finish limited to applications for contact with dry milk products. This concept of "smooth" finish is directly related to the effective cleanability of the surface.


The program gives assurance to the dairy processor that they are in compliance with applicable sanitation codes if the equipment and components meet 3-A Standards. Consequently, individual inspection of equipment for sanitary design is often unnecessary when it complies with 3-A Standards. The sanitary design demanded by 3-A approved equipment also assures the processor that the most modern cleaning and sanitizing methods, materials and systems can be applied without damage to equipment or residue carry-over to product.

The phrase "under the environment of intended use" connotes the preservation of a cleanable surface throughout repeated exposure to product contact and the cleaning and sanitizing environment. The dairy processor therefore has increased ease of and efficiency in equipment cleanability which converts to lower cleaning cost, and savings in labor.

For the equipment manufacturer, assurance is provided that their equipment if designed in conformance with 3-A Standards will receive automatic acceptance from processors and sanitarians.

Finally the 3-A Council has promoted studies which has resulted in significant contributions to the state of the art equipment and pioneered criteria for cleanability of multiple-use plastics and plastic tubing.


Equipment manufactured in conformity with 3-A Sanitary Standards complies with the sanitary design and construction standards of this Ordinance.

The 3-A Council authorizes equipment manufacturers and fabricators to display their nationally recognized symbol on all equipment that has been certified to be in compliance with the established guidelines.

Equipment standards are published biennially by the International Association for Milk, Food, and Environmental Sanitarians with the serial number of the applicable standard. The use of 3-A Sanitary Standards helps to promote uniformity and resolves many of the problems of conflicting codes and individual regulatory criteria.

Involved in the establishment of the standards is the International Association for Milk, Food, and Environmental Sanitarians, the Dairy Industry Sanitary Standards Committee, The Milk Industry Foundation, the Dairy and Food Industry Supply Association and the U. S. Public Health Service Food and Drug Administration.

The appointed Trustees of the 3-A Symbol Council consists of Dairy Equipment Suppliers (2 representatives), Dairy Processors (2 representatives), and Milk Sanitarians (4 representatives).

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