Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Improved food safety through control of sterility of air food processing and packaging

The aim of the research project was the detailed investigation of the microbial influence on the product quality in the food industry. In previous investigations the contamination of the air by microorganisms and bacterial spores was recognized as an important issue in food processing. Normal fine dust filters do not absolutely separate microorganisms out the process air because of their size, which is in many cases bellow 1 micron. Furthermore, microorganisms are not always attached to bigger dust particles.
In order to understand the microbiological risks in food processing the microorganisms present in the air of the processing site were identified for an egg-processing company and a dairy company. Pathogenic organisms were found in the high concentration, which could not only contaminate the product but also pose a health hazard to the workers. This was done by commercial sampling apparatus. For long-term sampling novel techniques were developed.
In parallel to the monitoring of microorganisms in the industry the behavior of the microorganisms was investigated under defined conditions in the lab. For this purpose a test rig was constructed, in which a wide range of typical airflow conditions could be simulated. Bio-aerosols containing defined concentrations of marker bacteria were generated and used to test different deep-bed fibre materials.
The investigation of filter materials established that the separation efficiency is not very high for small microorganisms. It was shown that under favorable conditions microorganisms can survive the filter media. After a time which is less than the normal lifetime (in terms of inert particles) a filter may even become ineffective in the separation of microorganisms and may even generate more bacteria combinations.
The investigations carried out were done with a view to application in industry. Know how was developed in the course of the project which enables a quality control system to be put in place. Such a system involves routine microbiology and particulate sampling of air in processing areas, and control of air changes and humidity. Particular areas which are susceptible to contamination, e.g. filling stations, packaging areas, can be safeguarded by provision of a direct supply of filtered air with positive pressure. All these efforts will have a great benefit for food processing companies for ensuring the quality of their product.

Reported by

Deutches Institut fur Lebensmitteltechnik eV
Prof Von Klitzing str 7
49610 Quakenbruck
Germany
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