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Cutting airborne contamination at food and beverage facilities


About food safety

Anyone who works in the food and beverage sector is also a consumer, so they know better than anyone about the importance of guaranteeing safe, uncontaminated products. With many strict regulations concerning food safety, this is the goal for the entire industry, and it’s entirely possible to alleviate the hazards of dust in the workplace through a few simple measures.

Types of contamination

The food and beverage industry is complex, requiring companies to juggle production and storage, keeping up with market preferences, and food safety regulations. One particularly important consideration is contamination, which can have serious legal and financial consequences.

Contamination can happen at any stage of production and can be split into three main categories:

Cross contamination

This form of contamination is particularly insidious because it can happen at almost any stage of food and beverage processing. It’s hard to detect, so prevention is crucial. Even when taking common-sense precautions, food dust particles can easily spread between products. These particles, which vary in size and can be invisible to the naked eye, often include dust from grains, cereals, eggshells, or shellfish, and powders such as spices, sugar, corn starch, and flour.

Particle contamination

Non-food particles, such as dust and plant spores, can enter the facility and get in contact with the product. It is common to see particle contamination during production or packaging. In addition to risking contamination, other hazards of dust in the workplace can include poor employee health and more frequent issues with machinery.

Microbial contamination

As the name suggests, this involves microbes such as bacteria and mould spores contaminating the product. Microbial contamination occurs most frequently when employees handle the product. Workers who fail to use appropriate protective gear or to maintain personal hygiene pose the largest risk.

The challenge

Food safety is critical: in the most extreme cases, poor food safety procedures can result in illness and even death, not to mention the reputational and financial damage to the company.

For facilities which manufacture both general products and allergen-free or gluten-free products, contamination poses a particularly significant challenge. 

Food particles can spread through the air and accumulate on processing equipment, jeopardizing the safety of sensitive food products.

Beyond contamination, there are plenty of other hazards of dust in the workplace. From sick or unhygienic employees to improperly cleaned equipment, it’s clear that keeping the air particle-free needs to be a high priority.

The solutions

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that food and beverage manufacturing facilities can take to reduce the risk of contamination.

Testing

Regular testing, for instance can identify contamination early and allow the facility to find and resolve the problem quickly. Testing can take place on incoming ingredients, production components, finished batches of product to ensure that no contamination has taken place. Specifications should also be established for every step so that test results have a meaningful benchmark to measure against.

Facility design

The design of the facility is also important to reducing the risk of contamination. Facilities which lack drainage or restrict airflow can cause particulate matter to spread, as can inappropriate temperature and pressure management. It’s also important that surfaces are smooth and simple to clean, so that they don’t accumulate dust. The facility should have distinct areas for each area of production – particularly if it is working on multiple products simultaneously – to limit the potential for cross-contamination.

Air purification

Finally, making use of air purification systems is a high effective and affordable solution. At Zehnder Clean Air Solutions, our filtration systems can prevent dust, bacteria and particles from settling on sensitive goods like food and beverages. Because they capture dust at the source, they ensure that the particles do not get a chance to circulate through the air and contaminate products. They can also help your company meet regulatory requirements, lower maintenance costs for machinery, and improve employee health, so there are plenty of reasons to consider air filtration today.

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