In a food processing facility, sanitation is a critical process control element. Every component must meet specific standards for temperature and cleanliness to ensure products are safe for human consumption. Air quality and temperature control of processing and storage areas are core components of food safety.
According to Food Safety Magazine, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a report in 1986 recognizing that airborne sources were a cause of pathogenic contamination. To that end, HVAC systems are as critical to food safety as other features of a processing facility. The report added that a complete and regular survey of a facility’s air supply and utilization was necessary.
Food products should be processed and packaged in positive pressure, highly filtered air zones. And properly directed air flow is essential to reduce the potential undesirable odors that impart off flavors to food products.
Temperature management is also a critical discipline in food processing facilities. Requirements vary by the type of product. Fresh or frozen, fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood require different temperatures for processing and storage. In processing rooms, temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit are common, particularly in meat handling.
Importance of the Proper Design
When designing an HVAC system for a food processing facility, temperature, air flow, and filtering are principal factors. If the air pressure in a processing room happens to be negative, an open door will admit unwanted, contaminated air.
To ensure proper ventilation, designers must establish the location of the air intake and filtering plus the direction of the air flow within the facility. Experienced HVAC experts should collaborate in the design or retrofit process to ensure:
- Optimal temperature capability
- Correct humidity
- Accurately designed air distribution and flow
- Proper air filtering
- Ideal room pressures
- Lack of contamination
Optimal positioning of the air filter intake is essential to ensuring the proper air flow and pressures. The degree of filtration depends on the micro-sensitivity of the individual product. Well-conceived designs ensure that the air intake is substantially removed from the exhaust outlets in order not to circulate already contaminated air.
Employee Health & Safety
Controlling airborne contaminants and microbes is also critical for the health of employees. Besides adding to employee absences and turnover, these events can increase the potential for contamination of the food products.
Consult the Experts in Chicago, Illinois
In Chicagoland, General Mechanical provides expert HVAC design, installation, and maintenance of food processing facilities. With licensed and experienced technicians, General Mechanical can develop the best HVAC system for any building configuration.
For existing facilities, periodic reviews of the air handling and HVAC systems can eliminate potential problems and save money. Over time, ducts and moving parts can accumulate grime and foreign materials that can interrupt the efficient performance of the system. These disruptions can result in the restriction of airflow which can cause a backup in potentially harmful airborne contamination. The system also needs to work harder to try to maintain the set flow and temperatures, thereby using more energy. Regular inspection and filter system changes are required.
Experienced General Mechanical specialists can inspect and maintain your systems to keep them in proper working order. Contact us today!