When buying, we are looking for certain qualities that will satisfy the needs of our business. So, we are looking for range or stove with enough burners, or ovens or some other quality. Or, we know we need the reach-in refrigerator with a certain amount of space and shelves inside. And if we run a tight space kitchen or a food truck, we definitely want to know the exact dimensions of the pizza oven, because if it doesn’t fit it won’t do us any good, no matter how fantastic that restaurant equipment actually is.
So, we know what we want, and we found the appliance with all the right dimensions and features, but what about the quality? We know our appliance is made of stainless steel, so it’s high quality, right? Although stainless steel provides excellent performance regarding durability and sanitation there’s more to it. Much more.
Every appliance is made of hundreds and even thousands of parts. Now, you can ask a salesperson for an info on something like the quality of cavity magnetron in the microwave you are interested in. But there’s every chance you won’t get it. That is not something sales need to know, and most of the manufacturers won’t share such information.
So how do we know that some of the restaurant equipment is good enough, and can withstand the extended use of all its features?
We know that by certification ALL the equipment sold in the US must have.
Ever since the first electrical appliances (light bulbs) began emerging, and with all the risk electricity posed in those days, certain companies developed tests which would say the consumer that a certain product is safe to use.
ETL and NSF
But what is the “social status” of some certificates in the certification world? How do they rank among each other? For example people often wonder if some product is good enough if it has ETL certificate while they are looking for NSF. Those two are interchangeable.
They have to fulfill the same standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
So, when you see ETL you can be sure that it is as good as if it was certified by NSF. You can’t have one piece of equipment that satisfy testing conditions of one certification company and fail the other. So choosing between two certificates in the same category, like choosing between NSF and ETL is not much of a choice, because you will get the same standard with both of them.
But why are there many different certification there? Here you will find more information on why there are different certifications and what does it mean for our work safety and food sanitation, so keep reading.
All these companies that do testing are impartial, third-party companies. They are not involved in the industry your appliance is in, and they are not government owned as well.
But they do have some rules to follow.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor defines the standards every testing company must follow.
In North America all the manufacturers must partner with certain Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), which is the official common description for, at this point, several third-party testing companies whose certificates are nationally recognized and accepted as applicable.
So, those certifications are proof of independent testing and evaluations of the products and appliances on the North American market.
But what all these companies do tests for, and why there are multiple certifications on a single product?
Like we mentioned earlier, there are several companies which are nationally recognized for testing and certification. And all of them fulfill certain conditions and follow directions enforced by the US law. Some of them do certification for one kind of safety, while other specialize in somehow different. The common thing they all have is that they are improving the food safety.
If you ever wondered how the testing procedures go…well it is not a pleasant sight. The products are actually destroyed during the testing. Every company has developed a standards for every product (and every part of that product), so they know what to look for and what to expect during the tests. For example, the refrigerator doors, are opened and closed a few hundreds of thousands times. That is the expected number of open/close door cycle during the life time expectancy for a certain type of door/refrigerator. And that testing alone lasts for several days.
All the appliances are tortured during the tests. Remember all the things your mother told you not to do while growing up? That is exactly what engineers do with the restaurant equipment. They hit it, and looking for malfunction after it, they burn it, turn it off and on again for thousands of times, they drop it, throw steel balls at it, and apply enormous pressure to it.
They pierce it and even shoot at it if it needs to sustain such kind of use. They pay attention to a very small detail on equipment and its supposed environment. They do all that to be sure that equipment you buy is safe to use. And because of that testing the manufacturer and seller can give you a proper warranty. Very important aspect of certification is follow-up inspection.
Certification companies do regular follow-up inspection to make sure the product is the same every time, and not just for the purpose of testing and certification.