Compressed air is a critical utility widely used throughout the food industry. Being aware of the composition of compressed air used in your plant is key to avoiding product contamination. Your task is to assess the activities and operations that can harm a product, the extent to which a product can be harmed, and how likely it is that product harm will occur. Assessing product contamination is a multi-step process in which you must identify the important risks, prioritize them for management, and take reasonable steps to remove or reduce the chance of harm to the product, and, in particular, serious harm to the consumer.
Imagine a dairy farm. Do pictures of idyllic pastures populated by grazing, happy cows come to mind? What about the not-so-idyllic image of farmers milking cows by hand? Modern dairy farms work a little differently. Darigold, a farmer-owned dairy co-op located in the Pacific Northwest, has the happy cows, but production is more sophisticated. The company has eleven state-of-the-art production facilities churning out high-quality dairy products at mind-boggling rates. Milk, for instance, is produced to the tune of 2.6 million gallons per day. To maintain efficient production at scale, Darigold also has an innovative energy management program in place.
According to the Compressed Air and Gas Institute (CAGI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the three major contaminants in compressed air are solid particles, water, and oil. CAGI promotes proper use of air compressors with various educational tools, while ISO 8573 is directed at the very specific areas of compressed air purity and test methods, which this article will address. Microorganisms are also considered a major contaminant by CAGI, but will not be discussed in this article.
To produce healthy, high-quality cooking oil, this food processing company crushes and processes oil seeds shipped in from local farms. The oil produced is thought to be the healthiest cooking oil available, because it is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), like omega-3 fatty acids. To increase the energy efficiency of its oil seed crushing and processing facility, the company optimized its compressed air system by combining three separate systems into one. Some end-use optimization was done to correct low pressure, particularly caused by some critical high-flow, short-duration events.
In the food and beverage industry, the moment a product leaves the production line, the clock starts ticking down to when that product will no longer be viable for sale or consumption. To combat the clock, modified atmospheric packaging (MAP) techniques are used to help maintain product freshness and increase shelf life. Nitrogen is the most cost effective, efficient and widely used industry solution for a company’s packaging needs—whether it is for manufacturing cheese, coffee, dried snack foods, or fresh and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. MAP also helps to decrease chances of contamination or spoiling, keeping products on the market for longer and ultimately increasing the reach of distribution.
Health and safety issues are a major concern in the food industry. Not only can contaminated food products endanger consumers, but they also can cause significant damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line. Contamination can come from many sources—industrial lubricants among them. With the abundance of lubricated machinery used in the food industry, lubricant dripping from a chain or escaping through a leak in a component can prove catastrophic. Even with the most prudent maintenance and operating procedures, along with a strict HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) plan, contamination may still occur.
The 2016 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), held in January 2016, had another great year with 30,277 poultry, meat and feed industry leaders from all over the world in attendance. There were also 1,301 exhibitors, a new record, with more than 464,750 square feet of exhibit space. The Expo is the world's largest annual poultry, meat and feed industry event of its kind and is one of the 50 largest trade shows in the United States. IPPE is sponsored by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, American Feed Industry Association and North American Meat Institute.
Technological trends in plastics manufacturing are driving the costs of production down. In industrial PET blow molding specifically, two innovative techniques have had major impacts over the last 15 years: “light weighting” the plastic bottles, and recirculating high-pressure compressed air. Both have helped to improve the energy efficiency of PET blow molding by reducing compressed air requirements dramatically.
Any modern food manufacturing facility employs compressed air extensively in the plant. As common as it is, the potential hazards associated with this powerful utility are not obvious and apparent. Food hygiene legislation to protect the consumer places the duty of care on the food manufacturer. For this reason, many companies often devise their own internal air quality standards based upon what they think or have been told are “best practices.” This is no wonder, as the published collections of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that relate to compressed air are nebulous and difficult to wade through.
One of the statements made in the Compressed Air Challenge’s Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems seminar is that improvements can always be made to every compressed air system, including new ones. The statement definitely applies to a Canadian pork processing facility built a few years ago. This article is based on a compressed air audit performed two years into the life of a brand new plant. The audit found numerous problems and made recommendations that helped reduce plant compressed air operating costs by 60 percent.
Air-operated double diaphragm (AODD) pumps are common to many manufacturing facilities. As estimated by veteran compressed air auditor Hank van Ormer of Air Power USA, approximately 85 to 90 percent of plants in the United States have AODD pumps. They are used for all kinds of liquid transfer applications, like those found in chemical manufacturing, wastewater removal, and pumping viscous food products.