According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 30,000 food and beverage processing plants across the United States employ more than 1.5 million workers.1 Each of those plants applies a wide range of processes to raw agricultural goods to produce consumable food and beverage products.
Micro-aerosolized droplets are how many members of the microbial world become cross-contaminants via the air mode of transmission. Food borne viral pathogen Hepatitis A and the ubiquitous Norwalk are very often transported via micro- aerosols. It is well known that many viral or bacterial pathogens or spoilers are transmitted via respiratory bursts [coughs/ sneezes] from people or air handling system, condensate, and splash back from floors. Strict cGMPs can limit and control transmission in terms of personal & environmental hygiene.
Gaseous nitrogen is used in a variety of systems and processes in the food manufacturing and packaging industries. Often regarded as the industry standard for non-chemical preservation, nitrogen is an inexpensive, readily available option. Suited for a variety of uses, Nitrogen needs to be monitored for purity and potential contaminants. Depending on the type of use, the distribution channel, and the required purity levels, different testing plans should be implemented to ensure safety.
This article will focus on ISO8573-7 normative test methods and analysis for viable microbiological contaminants and how it can be fundamentally utilized in compressed air microbial monitoring plans. The quality of the compressed air must be monitored periodically to fulfill national and international standards. ISO 8573 is an available standard addressing compressed air quality. It consists of nine parts that address purity classes, specifications, and procedures. ISO 8573-7:2003, can be utilized across all industries’ compressed air microbial monitoring plans. It contains both informative and normative procedures but lacks any tested compressed air microbial specifications regarding colony enumeration limits for microbial plate counts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SQF is a food safety management company that conducts audits and reports its findings on companies that voluntarily subscribe to its services. Once an audit is performed, SQF releases the data; from this data, other companies can determine who they want to use for packaging and manufacturing. To facilitate the process, SQF has released a guide that provides directives for processes used in manufacturing.
Compressed air is the most common utility used in a typical industrial facility. It encompasses most operating aspects of the plant. The compressed air system can end up being the most expensive utility due to the focus that if production is running - then leave the system alone. Processes and machines are added and as long as the compressor can handle the increasing load - all is good. This brings us to our subject matter. The plant adds a process, a specialty coating line, requiring respirator protection. The plant determines supplied air respirators are the best choice. They want to be responsible and do the right thing so they start by reviewing what OSHA has to say on the subject.
It was the Fall of 1997 in Germany. I was just another guy working in the German compressed air industry. East Germans were still being looked down on - seven years after unification, the Euro was launching in little over a year - forcing marketing managers like me to scramble and create unified european Euro pricing strategies, European Cohesion Funds were flowing out of Germany and into the Mediterranean (not literally), and the diminutive Mercedes “Smart Car” was the cool car for space-challenged urban dwellers. With this going on, you can imagine the surprise of the compressed air industry when compressed air was featured in “Der Spiegel”, a “Newsweek-like” weekly magazine in Germany with national distribution.