As the food and beverage industry continues to grow, so does the demand for clean, compressed air. Air quality is critical due to the potential risks of contamination from using untreated compressed air. Compressed air systems are dynamic and the compressor intake is subject to microbial, particulate, and moisture variations throughout the year as well as buildup of contamination in the system. In fact, compressed air at 100 psig can contain 8 times the amount of bacteria and contaminates as atmospheric air.

Common contact points where compressed air can come in contact with food include bagging, sparging/mixing, drying, air knives or blowing-off and pneumatic exhausts. Downstream air reservoirs, piping, fittings, and controls are common sites for microbial growth due to the warm, oxygen dense environment.  Besides the risk of pathogenic or allergenic contaminations, yeast and/or mold spores from compressed air in final packaging has been known for impacting shelf life.

Industry procedures have been specifically designed to eliminate the risk of contamination by including sterile air filtration at point of use compressed air system, sanitation operating procedures, maintenance and monitoring programs.

The HACCP Prerequisite Program (PRP) is designed for use in all segments of the food industry from growing, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, distributing, and merchandising to preparing food for consumption. Food safety systems based on the HACCP principles have been successfully applied in food processing plants, retail food stores, and food service operations. The principles of HACCP have been universally accepted by government agencies, trade associations and the food industry around the world.

HACCP’s systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards based on the following seven principles:

  • Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.
  • Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).
  • Principle 3: Establish critical limits.
  • Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.
  • Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.
  • Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.
  • Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.

Prerequisite programs such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are an essential foundation for the development and implementation of successful HACCP plans.

  • GMP #1: Remove as much moisture as possible from the compressed air before distributing it throughout the plant. A dew point of -40°F/-40°C is ideal.
  • GMP #2: Use point-of-use sterile air filtration wherever compressed air comes in contact directly or indirectly with food or food contact surfaces.
  • GMP #3: Ensure the final stage in point-of-use filtration has a rating of 0.01 micron with a particulate removal efficiency rating that is equal to or better than 99.999 percent10 (providing 5-log reduction of any microbial contamination).

It is incredibly important for industry professionals to familiarize themselves and keeping up-to-date with these principles and practices. Additionally, making sure your air supplier is compliant and well-educated on these matters can significantly impact day-to-day operations. For more information on choosing an air supplier for the Food and Beverage Industry, read our blog “Tips for Choosing an Air Supplier…”