For any food industry, the main challenge it faces during initial stage is the selection and designing of utilities. Utilities of a food industry comprises of environmental air, compressed air, water, and steam. Utilities play major role and are very influential factors for the production and for the quality of product produced.
- Environmental Air
Environmental air is the surrounding air that is present in the vicinity of production plant which can be highly contaminated with physical of microbiological contaminants. Manufacturing plant are segregated into manufacturing area, where the product comes into contact with the environmental conditions and non-manufacturing area, where the non-manufacturing process like packaging, warehouse, etc. takes place. Manufacturing area or production area need to be maintained at utmost hygiene as product comes in direct contact with environment. In manufacturing area certain preventive action are required to maintain the quality of the products.
- Regular monitoring, trending and review of air quality by appropriate personnel to ensure suitable microbiological quality.
- Maintaining suitable air pressure differentials between adjacent areas (Non- manufacturing area) in relation to positive, negative, and ambient airflow to prevent contamination.
- Air sourced from outside to be filtered to the level required for the product.
- Air blown on surface of microbiologically sensitive material to be sourced from within processing area.
- Air for controlled or high controlled zones not to be sourced from unprocessed (raw) areas.
- Air supplied to the filler in an aseptic filling system (for beverages) to be filtered through a HEPA filter (H13).
- Compressed Air
Compressed air efficiently supports the food industry as long as care is taken to remove contaminants from the system. Compressed air system is of different type i.e., contact system and non-contact system, depending upon the use and it is food industry requirement that should define how compressed air is to be used in their facility and define a specification for compressed air purity based upon the system.
- Compressed air for general applications should be dry, oil free, and filtered to remove foreign particles.
- Compressors providing air for direct contact with food to be of oil free design. If unavoidable, food grade oil to be used.
- When used as an ingredient, or in contact with microbiological sensitive substance, compressed air to be filtered to 0.3µ at point of use.
- Distribution piping to be of approved material
- Preventive maintenance of air filters to be documented
Water in food industry have extensive consumption. Depending upon the requirement, water can be used as ingredient or component of ingredient, for cleaning and sanitation or for processing operations. Different form of water is used in industry like soft water, raw water, RO water, process water, as refrigerant or as heating medium. Quality or sanitary level depends on the intended use. Food business should follow good sense practice while considering source and treatment to ensure the quality and safety of the products. Potable water supply system should meet all local and national regulatory requirements and there is certain other requirement as listed below
- Water microbiological quality to be controlled and meet specific requirements and performing periodic microbiological tests.
- Test all water (reclaim water, hand wash water, water for brine solutions, recirculated cooling water, water as sanitation final rinse) to be tested for TVC (Total Viable Count) and coliform. Recommended limits are TVC< 500 cfu /ml and coliforms <1cfu/100ml
- Initiate corrective action for out of standard results.
- Test ozone & chlorine periodically for chlorinated water and weekly analysis of water being used in product.
In food industry, steam can be recognized into two that is plant or process steam (indirect contact or no contact with food) and culinary steam (direct contact with food or food coming in contact surface). Process steam is the steam used indirectly during processing (e.g. steam for jacketed equipment) and the steam to be produced using boiler chemicals or water treatment should be approved under local/ national regulations. Culinary steam or clean steam is suitable for direct product contact and can be directly injected into product. It can be used to sterilize the vessels or parts that comes in contact with food product. Culinary steam should be produced only using approved food grade boiler chemicals. The piping assembly for direct steam should contain an entrainment separator capable of removing particles of 30-micron size and should be delivered through stainless steel pipework to the point of use.
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