Food Grade Air in Manufacturing
Food grade air or clean process air in the food industry is integral to Quality Assurance and Quality Control and it should always be considered a Critical Control Point (CCP) if used in your food manufacturing process. Many industry standards and schemes regarding Quality Control in food and beverage refer to the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan as an integral part of their directives. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is just one of many groups that recognize HACCP as a valuable Quality Control plan. In that vein, four major governing organizations have specifically identified compressed air as a Pre-Requisite Program (PRP) or Critical Control Point (CCP), that needs monitoring. They are International Standardization for Organization (ISO), the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), and the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF). In addition the Canadian Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) has identified compressed air and gas used in processing and packaging as a potential source of contamination. Contamination in process air like particles, water, oil or microbial contaminants can have devastating results on a final product, potentially leading to recalls, down manufacturing time or worse.
Assuring food safety and quality is essential for the viability of any food manufacturer. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was established to improve consumer trust by improving food safety through corporate responsibility and safer food supply chains.
The British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) Food and Beverage Grade Compressed Air Best Practice Guideline 102 is an excellent reference for the food manufacturer and its suppliers. The BCAS Best Practice Guideline identifies the four primary areas of potential contamination in compressed air – Particles, Water, Oil, and Microbiological Contaminants. Section 7 of the Guideline states that compressed air coming in Direct Contact with food shall meet ISO 8573-1:2010 Purity Class 2:2:1; Indirect Contact 2:4:2. See Table below for limits.
Food Grade Air in Manufacturing Compressed Air & Gas Testing Specifications
Trace Analytics, LLC is an A2LA Accredited Laboratory in compliance with ISO 17025 as required by BRC and SQF. We can test to a wide variety of specifications. Some example specs commonly used in Food Grade Air in Manufacturing are shown below:
BCAS Food and Beverage Grade Compressed Air
|By Particle Size|
(maximum number of particles per m3)
|Vapor Pressure Dewpoint||Aerosol & Vapor|
|0.1 µm < d ≤ 0.5 µm||0.5 µm < d ≤ 1.0 µm||1.0 µm < d ≤ 5.0 µm||°C||°F||mg/m3|
|400,000||6,000||100||≤ -40||≤ -40||≤ 0.01|
|400,000||6,000||100||≤ +3||≤ +37||≤ 0.1|
|Microbial Contaminants||Hazard analysis shall establish the risk of contamination by microbiological contaminants from compressed air. The level of control identified as being required over microbiological contaminants in the compressed air shall be detected using the test method specified in ISO 8573-7.|
|Footnotes||(P) Particle classes 1-5 may not be employed if particles >5 micron are present according to ISO 8573-1.|
According to the Guideline, compressed air quality shall be tested and verified at least twice per year or per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Additional testing is also warranted whenever maintenance work or any activity that may affect the air quality is performed on the compressed air system. (Section 8.2) The Guideline recognizes the importance of compressed air quality and states that compressed air should now be part of the Pre-Requisite Program (PRP) in addition to the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. (Section 4) Whenever maintenance is performed a representative selection of the air outlets shall be tested to confirm that the compressed air meets the relevant Purity Classes. (Annex D.4) The risk for microbiological contaminants shall be assessed per ISO 8573-7. It further states that microbiological testing of end products should not be relied upon for compressed air compliance. (Section 7.4) All measurements shall be recorded and documented. (Section 8.7)
Edition 7 of the SQF Code states several times that, compressed air used in the production process shall be clean and present no risk to food safety. And compressed air used in the production process shall be regularly monitored for purity. SQF goes on to say further on their website, “Food processing facilities need to operate from a fundamental assumption that compressed air can be a source of chemical and microbiological contamination. Food facilities must verify and validate the compressed air used in their facility is appropriate for use and not a source of contamination”.
The International Featured Standards on Food (IFS) states, the quality of compressed air that comes in direct contact with food or primary packaging material shall be monitored based on hazard analysis and assessment of associated risks. (Section 220.127.116.11) And compressed air shall not pose a risk of contamination. (Section 18.104.22.168)
The Global Aquaculture Alliance states in its Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP), all critical control points must be properly identified in order to control hazards. (Section 5.2.4) And monitoring must be adequate to control hazards and carried out as detailed in the HACCP plan. (Section 5.2.11)
The Global Red Meat Standard (GRMS) states, hazards relevant to food safety shall be controlled in critical control points (CCP) and/or by GMP measures. (Section 12.1.2) And relevant parameters shall be selected for monitoring every CCP and these must be capable of demonstrating the conformity of the control measure. (Section 12.4.3)
PrimusGFS states that verification plans and schedules shall be developed for each CCP. (Section 3.03)
Click this link to learn more about Compressor Contamination Sources.
A periodic compressed air test program can provide critical information about your air quality and help prevent contamination of the food supply. Due to the critical nature of compressed air used in the food manufacturing process, qualified personnel should be employed to properly maintain, service, and test the compressed air system.
We offer baseline testing when you are unsure what Purity Classes your air system can meet, we can also provide analysis for any given Purity Classes you select, or you can provide your own custom specifications. Trace’s AirCheck✓ Kit™ K810 can be used to sample for particles, water, and oil (aerosol and vapor); Model KPSII is available for microbial sampling.