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Compressed Air in the Food Industry

A first introduction

What does compressed air actually mean for a tasty ice cream?

In this video you will learn about the significant influence compressed air has on the production, processing and safety of food. We take a closer look at the use of compressed air in ice cream production and explain what producers should consider in order to avoid contamination of compressed air and the end product. We present relevant guidelines and standards and show what damage can be caused to consumers and companies by contaminated compressed air.

Production processes

Where is compressed air involved?

Compressed air is not only an energy source in production processes, but also involved in many other production steps.

Transport
food production

Transport in production

This does not only apply for raw materials, rather more the end and intermediate products in the manufacturing process must also be conveyed from one process stage to the next. For example, not only the ingredients for chocolate but also the cocoa mass produced are conveyed pneumatically. A so-called pigging technology is utilised to push them out of the piping which also requires compressed air in order to push the pig.

Manufacturing
eiscreme

Manufacturing foodstuff

Compressed air utilised in the manufacturing and treatment processes for foodstuff must always be oil-free and germ-free, as the compressed air comes into direct contact with the product. A corresponding compressed air processing is therefore required e.g. with a sterile filter for direct product contact Since there are no requirements in place for monitoring the compressed air, the manufacturers are responsible and should implement appropriate hazard and risk management (HACCP). Continuous monitoring of the compressed air quality ensures process safety and reduces incorrect production. This can easily occur, for instance in the context of ice cream production. Compressed air is blown into the base ice cream mass to make it creamier. If the compressed air does not have this necessary purity class, then the ice cream consistency is negatively affected.

Compressed air is utilised in additional foodstuff processes, among other things for cooling down bakery products and chocolate, blowing away dough and chocolate residue, spraying and glazing of dough-based products as well for coating potato products.

In addition, compressed air can be used for cleaning, blowing out shapes, for CIP cleaning of production plants or systems or for washing fruits and vegetables. Compressed air is hereby routed into the water so that it moves and achieves better washing effects.

Packing
verpacken

Packing and filling

The transfer of mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOSH/MOAH) to foodstuffs is considered particularly critical in the case of packaging materials - especially recycled corrugated board and the newspaper printing inks containing mineral oil used in the recycling chain. For a long time, compressed air as a source of contamination was not considered.

The condition of the final product must remain unchanged when packing and filling products. Beverages and food must therefore be treated very gently and there cannot be any resulting contamination. This means that compressed air utilised in this area must be oil-free and germ-free. So-called sterile air is required for processes in the packaging and filling food sector e.g. with deep withdrawal for beakers, thermal shaping of other packaging, inflating of packaging and filling liquid products. Compressed air is also utilised to blow out incorrect products or for cleaning of packaging materials.

Compressed air is also required in the beverages industry for, among other things, when PET bottles are used in filling processes. The bottles are inflated by a so-called stretch blowing process with compressed air. In addition, compressed air is generally used for cleaning the bottles, contamination such as dust can be removed as one example. Bottles are sealed with bottle tops in breweries, which are transported with compressed air. If compressed air is hereby contaminated with, then this subsequently reduces foam formation for the beer. This clearly demonstrates to which extent compressed air can have important effects on the sensory characteristics of the product.

Logistics
food transport

Transportation of suppliers

Many raw materials are processed and transported in the food and beverage industry. Loose foodstuffs such as granulates, rice, cereals, sugar or coffee are transported in silos and tanks. The general rules for food transport state, among other things, that foodstuffs may only be transported in marked transport containers and are subject to special hygiene requirements. Compressed air is often used for unloading, which then comes into direct contact with the foodstuffs. The previous measures for the containers would be void if the compressed air is contaminated, thus causing contamination.

A special feature is the hazard potential at transition points in the production process in the food industry. Their safety standards also apply to suppliers, e.g. for packaging, raw materials, foodstuffs, silo transport. The transition points should therefore be considered in the hazard analysis (HACCP).

Controlling
control air

Controlling plants and systems

A wide variety of products as well as different machines and tools are required in the production of foodstuff and beverages, also pneumatic devices among others. Compressed air is mostly utilised here as control air i.e. as a pneumatic actuator for the control of grippers or valves. The materials of the pneumatic devices must comply with stringent requirements, such as being corrosion resistant, non-toxic and non-absorbent. The requirements for the compressed air itself especially depend on whether they come into direct contact with the food or not.

Compressed air pressure rarely comes into direct contact with the food when utilised for controlling a process although optimum compressed air processing remains important. Contaminations in the compressed air can accelerate the wear on the components and cause jamming in the components. Retaining the quality of the compressed air and an optimal design can therefore minimise downtimes and energy costs as well as preventing product contamination.
 

Fermentation
brewery fermentation

Fermentation

Mechanical processes are not the only important element in food manufacturing, biotechnological processes, so-called fermentation processes, are also important. This process is disrupted by foreign organisms, which is why it is imperative that process-foreign organisms are removed. The materials involved and the application utilised must therefore be sterile. This of course also applies for the compressed air, whereby a sterile filter is often utilised for treating it. Compressed air is utilised, for example, for the ventilation of seasoning in brewing processes, for the production of nitrogen or for mixing and transporting yeast during the fermentation process.

With the exception of blowing off crown corks of already closed bottles, the compressed air is in direct contact with the foodstuff and must therefore meet the highest purity standards, in terms of residual oil content even better than class 1. Sterile air should be used for wort aeration and destoning.

Contamination

Food industry warnings

The food industry uses compressed air in almost every production process. Impurities in the compressed air, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, mineral oils, oils, particles or gases can contaminate the food. It is possible that undesirable flavours or moisture are released into the product, which results in a drastic loss of quality.

In view of a great public interest and sensitised end consumers, the demands on producers with regard to food safety are increasing. The food industry has to deliver flawless products and this requires intelligent quality management.

A worst-case scenario for producers is the recall of a contaminated product that has already been put on the market. For example, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety published a total of 311 food warnings in 2022.

Risk management

Quality and safety standards

General quality and assurance standards apply to food production. There are also nationally and internationally recognised guidelines that explicitly concern the use of compressed air in the food production process. However, according to Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002, manufacturers are generally obliged to produce a safe product. Since the quality of compressed air has a direct impact on the safety of the food, producers must monitor their compressed air quality.

The food safety standard ISO 22000 is based on the general quality management standard ISO 9001 and contains specific requirements for the area of food safety.

In our detailed practical guide you will find further information on the HACCP concept, MOSH/MOAH and possible preventive programs for hazard analysis and risk minimization.

Practice Guide

With our practice guide you are on the safe side

The safe use of compressed air in the food industry requires filtration, suitable measures to ensure oil-free operation and effective compressed air drying. The necessary components such as filters, dryers, activated carbon adsorbers or catalysis units must be matched to each other and must function reliably even at different loads. For the process of compressed air treatment, the critical control points (CCP - Critical Control Points) must be defined and suitable measures for risk minimization - the so-called operative preventive program (oPRP) - must be established and documented. Continuous monitoring of the compressed air quality with suitable measuring technology is essential. Only in this way can compressed air quality be continuously measured and documented, e.g. for external audits.

You are welcome to download our practice guide "Food safety and compressed air". It contains extensive information on the following topics, among others:

  • Compressed air quality, purity classes and risk analysis
  • The compressed air process in the food industry
  • Recommendations, which compressed air quality is needed when
  • Components for compressed air preparation and monitoring
  • Checklist for compressed air quality in the food sector

The guide is particularly aimed at managing directors, production managers, quality managers, technical managers, food inspectors and auditors.

To the practice guide

Partnership for safe food production

Cooperation with the KIN Food Institute

The KIN Food Institute has been committed to quality and safety in production processes for over 50 years. With its own academy, it provides professional training with a wide range of seminars on the topics of process technology, quality management, product development and much more. An in-house accredited laboratory paves the way for quality assurance in Industry 4.0.

Food manufacturers appreciate this expertise. The transfer of knowledge takes place here at first hand. BEKO TECHNOLOGIES is also proud to be a member company and cooperation partner and to provide support in the field of compressed air treatment. Compressed air is used for cleaning, filling, mixing and packaging and harbours potential risks if it is not sufficiently cleaned and monitored.

On 4 July 2024, Focus Industry Manager Thorsten Lenertat will give a presentation on the topic ‘Just air? - Safe use of compressed air in the food industry’ at the KIN Food Institute. Interested parties can register for the workshop via the KIN Institute's registration page. The presentation will be held in German language.

Workshop Registration

A boost for food quality and safety

Cooperation with the IFS Pathway Project

BEKO TECHNOLOGIES has joined the IFS Pathway Project, a leading initiative promoting food quality and safety in the industry. This partnership represents a significant step in our ongoing commitment to provide innovative and reliable solutions for the food industry.

The IFS Pathway Project is recognized worldwide for its focus on developing and promoting quality and food safety standards. By joining forces with this prestigious initiative, BEKO TECHNOLOGIES strengthens its commitment to excellence in compressed air quality, a critical aspect of food production.

Benefits for the Food Industry

This collaboration offers numerous benefits for food quality professionals and auditors. By integrating our expertise in compressed air treatment and control into the IFS Pathway Project, users will find clarifying information on the application of the new IFS-8 in the field of compressed air quality.

It also explains the importance of using ISO 8573-1 as a standard when determining the quality of compressed air and how this standard relates to the requirements of the new IFS-8.

Driving Innovation and Quality

BEKO TECHNOLOGIES and the IFS Pathway Project share a common vision of promoting innovation and quality in the food industry. This collaboration is part of our unwavering commitment to continuous improvement and reaffirms our determination to support and advise our customers in the food industry.

Learn more here! 

References

Examples from the food industry

Premium syrup with premium compressed air

The food industry wants safe products. An important influencing factor is the quality of the compressed air used at many points in the production process.

milkpowder

Compressed air conveys milk powder

Powdered lactose is pumped through pipes at Meggle AG using compressed air. The utilized conveying air has to be absolutely dry and oil-free in order to prevent clumping. This is guaranteed by EVERDRY adsorption dryers and activated carbon adsorbers from BEKO TECHNOLOGIES.

getränke

Compressed air treatment in the beverage industry

Due to the extremely strict regulations in the food industry, RheinfelsQuelle H. Hövelmann GmbH & Co. KG uses BEKOKAT to produce absolutely oil-free compressed air, especially because the air as process air partly comes into direct food contact.

lavazza

Oil-free compressed air at LAVAZZA

Two installed BEKOKAT from BEKO TECHNOLOGIES in Neuss guarantee LAVAZZA a constantly oil- and germ-free compressed air of the highest quality, which even exceeds the extremely strict requirements of ISO 8573-1, Class 1 oil content.

Use Case: Compressed Air in food industry

Certification according to IFS Food Version 6 (higher lever) In order to obtain certification according to IFS Food Standard Version 6, a globally active German chocolate manufacturer is raising its hygiene and quality standards.