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Food Equipment Basics - ASTM (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials)

Originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM was founded in 1898 by a group of scientists and engineers in response to safety issues associated with the railroad industry. Since then, the organization has grown to 30,000 members, representing producers, users, consumers, government and academia from over 100 countries who serve on more than 130 committees such as steel, petroleum, medical devices, property management, consumer products and many more. Membership is open to individuals, organizations and businesses for a nominal fee and allows members to serve on one or more of the ASTM committees.

ASTM International is a not-for-profit, voluntary standards development organization that provides a global forum for the development and publication of standards for materials, products, systems and services for industry, government and the environment. ASTM does not do the actual product testing or verify that a particular product is tested by the standards it develops although a manufacturer may choose to indicate on its product label that its product was tested according to ASTM standards. Primary funding for ASTM activities comes from the sale of standards publications.

Standards are adopted on a consensus basis with input from all interested parties including dissenting opinions. Once a request for standardization is submitted, the ASTM staff evaluates and assigns the request to one of its committees. The staff of ASTM does not determine which standards should be developed. Any ASTM member who has an interest in the subject area covered by a committee can participate in the development of its standards. The "Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees" and the manual, "Form and Style for ASTM Standards," are among the documents that govern the ASTM standards development process.

ASTM has published over 12,000 technical documents that establish standards for manufacturing, management, procurement, codes, and regulations. Although not mandatory, government entities often give ASTM standards the force of law by citing them in laws, regulations and codes. Standards developed by ASTM are used around the world by purchasers and sellers who incorporate them into contracts; scientists and engineers who use them in their laboratories and offices; and architects and designers who use them in their plans. Many others refer to them for guidance. In the U.S., the 1995 National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act requires government agencies to use privately developed standards whenever possible and helps promote adoption of the standards offered by ASTM and similar standards development organizations.

In the category of food service equipment, ASTM issued testing standards for many types of equipment including the following, which can operate on natural gas or electricity: