Let’s cut to the chase: The auditor is going to show up on your doorstep very soon, and you need to pass your GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative), SQF (Safe Quality Foods), and BRC (British Retail Consortium) certification audits. There is a “Compressed Air Quality” requirement that is hard to define. What will the Auditor be looking for? Are there any meaningful GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) or industry standards to reference? How do we actually do this? In short, the Auditor will be looking to make sure that adequate point-of-use filtration is in place to reduce microbial contamination risks from compressed air where it contacts the food or food-contact-surfaces.
In a risk-based food safety system, it’s all about identifying the sources of potential food contamination and eliminating them. In this case, the risk which must be managed is microbial contamination of the food from compressed air. Impurities such as particulates, oil carryover and moisture can be present in compressed air. However, the most serious risk associated with compressed air, particularly when it comes into contact with food is microbial contamination. Choosing the correct filtration is important for both food safety and compliance reasons.
Where compressed air contacts food or food-contact-surfaces during processing, there is the potential for contamination in the form of microbial pathogens (as well as yeasts and molds that wreak havoc on shelf life). This means that point-of-use filtration that is capable of removing microbial contamination needs to be in place.
Very soon the auditors will be showing up on your doorstep to make sure you are correctly managing the risk of microbial contamination from compressed air. The industry standards and food safety code GMPs related to cleanliness and filtration of compressed air coming in contact with food are nebulous at best and not prescriptive at all. How can you pass the audit?
Sterile air filtration is an effective and affordable answer to removing potential microbial contamination from your compressed air system. When sterile air filtration is installed at point-of-use, the risk of microbial sized contamination is reduced in excess of 5-log.
Below is a quick overview of the types of compressed air filtration available:
- Particulate/Moisture Removal Filters: 5 to 40 micron
- Removes particulates and liquid water - microbial sized contamination passes right through.
- Coalescing Filters: 0.7 down to 0.01 micron
- Removes oil and water aerosols - 1-log to 2-log reduction of microbial sized contamination.
- Commercial Sterile Air Filters: 0.01 micron
- Minimum 5-log reduction of microbial sized contamination.
Therefore, by installing sterile air filtration at the point-of-use, where it comes into contact with food or food-contact-surfaces, you will meet or exceed GFSI, 21 CFR and all published food safety codes relative to compressed air quality in a food processing plant.
This is Part 1 of a 6 Part series on Compressed Air Contamination in Food Plants. Below are links to the rest of the series.
This series was written by Lee Scott, market development manager, Parker Hannifin