The Role of Air Compressors in Ensuring Food Safety and Efficiency in Food Production

Trust in food quality and safety is hard-earned and easily lost.

The food and beverage industry is a vast, dynamic, and ever-evolving sector where the stakes for safety and efficiency are as high as the need for innovation. Modern compressed air systems are used throughout the industry to streamline operations. 

However, contaminated air poses a significant risk to food safety. Companies rely on compressors for various applications, and many are in direct contact with food sources. Equipment can become a food safety liability without stringent testing, preventative maintenance, and air treatment.

In this blog, we’ve put together a quick guide explaining the importance of compressors in the food industry and how to ensure your equipment is in compliance.

Key Roles of Air Compressors in Enhancing Food Industry Safety and Efficiency

Air compressors serve various functions across the food and beverage industry, enhancing safety and efficiency. Their applications include:

Pneumatic Control Systems: Operating valves and actuators that manage the flow of ingredients and control machinery with precision.

Packaging Operations: Powering equipment for filling, sealing, capping, and labeling, ensuring speed and consistency in packaging lines.

Cleaning and Sterilization: Propelling jets of water or cleaning solutions for sanitation purposes and maintaining hygiene standards.

Food Processing: Assisting in mixing, cutting, slicing, and dough handling through pneumatic systems for uniformity and speed.

Bottling and Canning: Providing clean, oil-free air for high-speed bottling and canning operations without contaminating the products.

Cooling and Freezing: Driving cooling systems that require consistent and controlled airflow for effective temperature regulation.

Spraying Coatings: Utilizing compressed air for even and controlled spraying of oils, coatings, or flavorings on food products.

Product Transport: Conveying ingredients and products pneumatically, reducing the risk of contamination and manual handling.

Nitrogen Generation: Producing nitrogen on demand for Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) to preserve freshness and extend shelf life.

Forming and Molding: Deploying air compressors to form or shape food items like confectionery and bakery products.

Pneumatic Pressing: Utilizing compressed air for pressing operations in food item preparation, such as cheese making or juice extraction.

Air Knives: Employing high-velocity air streams to remove excess moisture or debris from products before labeling or packaging.

Fluid Pumping: Operating air-powered pumps that carefully handle viscous or delicate food substances, such as bottling drinks, honey, or dairy products.

Sorting and Separating: Powering machinery that sorts food items by size, weight, or other criteria for quality assurance.

Aeration: Aerating liquids and mixtures for proper fermentation or to improve texture, such as dough aeration or beverage carbonation.

Food safety isn’t optional; it’s a requirement. 

Foodborne illnesses affect millions of people in the United States every year. Food and beverage companies are mandated by law to follow strict standards for food safety. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Safe Quality Food (SQF) Standard, Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standard (BRCGS), and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have all initiated standards for food companies. 

Sounds like quite the list, doesn’t it? That’s how important food safety is for consumers, and it is the responsibility of business owners to ensure their compressed air equipment meets these requirements.

For example, compressed air systems used in FDA-regulated food companies must be certified and tested annually for various contaminants. Although annual testing is mandated, we recommend scheduling regular testing and inspections throughout the year. 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has set industry standards in air quality through its Classification of Air Purity standard, with Class 0 air purity being the strictest. Class 0 air contains no oil, dust, or water and is suitable for sensitive applications where purified air quality is necessary.

The following graph, provided by Gardner Denver, explains the standard for contaminants and purity classes, with the lowest number (0) being the highest purity level. It covers the three main contaminant sources we mentioned before (dirt, water, and oil), but please note that other contaminants, such as microorganisms and rust, may be present but not listed. Class 0 under the Oil Category applies to air delivered from oil-free or oil-less compressors.

Gardner Denver Purity Class Graph

Graph provided by Gardner Denver.

Non-compliance consequences aren’t worth the risk.

Non-compliance is a risk businesses cannot afford to take.

National regulatory bodies enforce strict guidelines on air purity in food processing environments. Failure to comply with air quality standards exposes food production companies to severe operational and legal risks. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, production shutdowns, product recalls, and legal issues. 

Non-compliance also puts consumer health at risk. Exposure to contaminants can lead to foodborne illnesses and endanger the health of a large group of people at once. For businesses, a single contamination incident can tarnish a brand’s reputation, lose consumer trust, and diminish sales.

Companies are responsible for ensuring their compressed air equipment complies with air purity standards for operational continuity, legal compliance, and public safety.

How Your Business Can Ensure Compliance

Failure to meet air quality standards in the food industry can have catastrophic effects. 

At Air Handling Equipment, we provide comprehensive solutions, including high-quality air compressors, parts, and air quality testing services, to safeguard your production processes against contamination risks. 

Specialized testing ensures your compressed air systems comply with international standards, including ISO 8573-1 for air quality and ISO 22000 for food safety management. Our technical expertise and unwavering focus on quality make us your ideal partner in meeting and exceeding industry standards for air purity.

Pure air quality starts with the components of your compressed air system. We partner with industry-leading brands to provide innovation, reliable technology, and years of testing and adapting to industry standards. Many of our air compressors are manufactured to be food-industry regulated and uphold the highest air purity standards. These compressors feature:

  • Multi-stage air filtration systems that eliminate particulates, aerosols, and vapors.
  • Oil-free technology to prevent any trace of lubricants from entering the production stream.
  • Variable speed drive two-stage compression for better efficiency in temperature and humidity control.
  • ISO Class 0 and silicone-free compression to comply with the strictest standards.
  • Robust dryer systems to reduce moisture and prevent microbial growth.
  • Dryer systems to avoid saturation at ambient temperatures and allow air flow at a proper dew point level.
  • Stainless steel pipework to ensure cleanliness and prevent corrosion.
  • Regular monitoring and maintenance programs to ensure consistent air quality output.

For a complete list of our air treatment parts and accessories, please read through Best Practices for Air Treatment Integration

Be Proactive to Protect Your Bottom Line

Don’t wait for a contamination crisis to realize the importance of clean, quality air. When it comes to protecting your consumers and brand, the cost of poor air quality is a liability you cannot afford. 

We understand that the quality of your compressed air is non-negotiable. Our state-of-the-art compressed air systems, air quality testing, and dedicated service team ensure that your operations adhere to the highest food safety and efficiency standards.

Protect your food industry business and bottom line by contacting us or calling 1-800-736-3321 today.

With office locations in Sidney, Loveland, and Gahanna, Air Handling Equipment has provided compressed air system solutions to the Midwestern and Southern Ohio markets since 1977. This includes proudly serving the greater Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, and Findlay, Ohio areas. For questions about our selection of used air compressors, call one of our locations or fill out our online contact form, and someone from our team will get back to you as soon as possible.