High-efficiency air filtration and food safety

Camfil Airepure
Thursday, 01 April, 2021

Every production facility within the food and beverage industry must consider air quality as part of their regime to comply with strict food standards and guidelines. The presence of airborne pathogens, mould spores, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can risk the health and safety of workers, contaminate production equipment and threaten the quality and safety of consumable products.

Clean air is a vital ingredient in the final product, no matter what food is being produced. The presence of contaminants in a food or beverage bottling production can threaten the reputation of a brand name that has taken years to establish. This is an important reason to ensure compliance with current standards and ensure regular validation of process equipment, including air filters.

If the HVAC system in your facility is poorly maintained or the air filtration system is not providing sufficiently suitable air quality, then the whole production process could be compromised. At the very least, poor air quality could affect workers’ health or create unwanted results such as early product spoilage. At the worst, it could spell disaster in the form of contaminated product or poorly packaged consumables, which could damage consumer confidence irrecoverably.

Air filters act as a barrier between food and microbiological cross-contamination from mould, bacteria, viruses, VOCs, fine dust from dry ingredients and other particulates. Molecular air filtration can improve production equipment resistance to corrosion while also ensuring problematic odours are captured at the source and do not escape into the surrounding atmosphere.

5 key benefits of high-efficiency air filtration in food and beverage industries

  • Help comply with food safety standards
  • Gain operational efficiency and cut production downtime and product loss
  • Protect employee health
  • Contribute to enhanced customer food experience
  • Maximise production excellence and extend product shelf life

Improving air quality through high-efficiency air filtration

Air filtration is considered an effective means to enhance the quality of air. Selecting appropriate air filters for different areas of your facility based on contamination risk is an effective way to reduce the threats from airborne contaminants while improving airflow and lowering maintenance costs.

The first step is to identify the risk area in your food processing business relating to air quality challenges.

Low care areas (basic hygiene requirements)

Low Care Areas are places where food is unlikely to contain pathogenic microorganisms nor support their growth due to food characteristics such as texture, size, appearance, colour, or nature. Examples of this include dry food storage areas and alcohol production.

It is recommended to have minimum G4 efficiency air filters per EN779:2012, such as Camfil 30/30 panel filters.

Medium risk areas (medium hygiene requirements)

Medium Risk Areas are where food may contain pathogenic microorganisms but will not support their growth due to food characteristics such as texture, size, appearance, colour, or nature. Examples include raw food processing/packaging, juice production, canned food, dairy products, peanut butter, dried food filling, tipping station and meat packaging.

It is recommended to have M5 to F9 efficiency air filters per EN779:2012, such as Camfil Hi-Flo pocket filters.

High care areas (high hygiene requirements)

High Care Areas occur where the microbiological reduction process is followed by ensuring sufficient air changes. Examples include ready to eat meals, sandwiches and salads.

It is recommended to have E11 EPA (efficient particulate air filter) per EN1822, such as Camfil Absolute compact box type HEPA filters.

High-risk areas (ultra-high hygiene requirements)

High-Risk Areas occur where microbiological prevention process is followed, and sufficient airflow along a positive pressure environment is required. Examples include cooked meat/meals, tasting areas, aseptic filling, washing areas, ice-cream production, chewing gum, confectionery and cleanroom packaging areas.

It is recommended to have H13/H14 HEPA per EN1822, such as Camfil Megalam cleanroom panel style HEPA filters.

The second step is to consider airflow throughout your facility to maintain the air changes required for each defined area.

Aside from removing potentially harmful airborne contaminants, a commercial air filter’s secondary task is to maintain a consistent airflow throughout the facility. High-efficiency filters are specifically designed to perform high capture efficiency while maintaining the proper airflow due to the filter’s low resistance. The final task of an air filter is to have the capacity to hold large volumes of particles within the media of the filter while maintaining a low resistance. This is known as a filter’s dust holding capacity.

Often food production businesses face limitations in upgrading their air filtration due to the design of the HVAC units, the size of the production facility, know-how of the working of air handling units, and even the internal process that affects the particulate level.

HVAC systems in the existing facility may not be designed to achieve increased air changes and improved filter efficiency. When these improvements are not available for upgrading the system, the process becomes more challenging due to the cost and expenses.

The use of standalone HEPA air cleaners within these high-risk areas can be an effective means to supplement the existing HVAC system and achieve the required air changes to support the food production facility.

It is recommended to have air cleaners with E11 EPA or H13/H14 HEPA filters per EN1822, such as Camfil air cleaners.

Facility owners may opt to upgrade to Camfil ProSafe filter models to meet strict BRCGS global standards for food safety and Camfil ES Energy Saving filter models to benefit from optimal energy-efficient air distribution, resulting in longer filter life and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for their premises.

For more information, go to https://www.camfil.com/en-au/industries/food-and-beverage.

Image caption: Illustration CamCleaner Horizontal Food BiscuitLine, supplied by Camfil.

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