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.
The food and beverage industry is complex; companies must juggle production and storage, keep up with market preferences, and meet food production safety regulations. One particularly important consideration is airborne 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:
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.
Non-food particles such as dirt, dust, and bacterial spores, can enter the food production facility and come in contact with the product. It is common to see particle contamination during production or packaging. In addition to risking contamination, other hazards of airborne contamination can include poor employee health and more frequent breakdowns with machinery.
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 maintain personal hygiene pose the largest risk.
Food production safety is critical: In the most extreme cases, poor food safety procedures can result in illness and even death, not to mention reputational and financial damage to the company.
For facilities that manufacture both general products and allergen-free or gluten-free products, airborne contamination poses a particularly significant challenge.
Food particles that spread through the air accumulate on processing equipment, jeopardizing the safety of sensitive food products.
Beyond contamination, there are plenty of other hazards related to dust in the workplace. From sick or unhygienic employees to improperly cleaned equipment, it’s clear that keeping the air particle-free must be a high priority.
Regular testing can identify airborne contamination early and allow the facility to find and resolve the problem quickly. Food production facilities can run testing on incoming ingredients, production components, and finished batches of product to ensure no contamination has taken place. These organizations should also establish specifications for every step of the food production process, so that test results have a meaningful benchmark to measure against.
The design of the food production facility is also important to reducing the risk of contamination. Facilities that 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 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.
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 other forms of airborne contamination from settling on sensitive goods. Because our air purifiers 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.