There’s a change in the air. New hygienic air handling technology and facility design strategies are improving processing plant food safety.

Food process facilities are implementing hygienic controls and ongoing sanitation to ensure safety and quality. One critical sanitation process control step involves air; its temperature, moisture and filtration, as well as related actions to maintain positive room pressure.

Meat, poultry and prepared food processors know that air comes into contact with food products, equipment and employees. Even a small amount of unconditioned air can adversely affect an area and possibly interrupt production— costing both time and money.

ESI Group recently designed and built a new meat processing facility that incorporated more than 20 new hygienic air units.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes review of what’s different about this new approach. A hygienic air handling system brings outside air into the production area for two primary purposes. First, the system conditions the air to the specifications of the room to maintain design temperature and humidity. Second, it pressurizes the room to help control and eliminate uncontrolled air infiltration from unconditioned areas (this aids in condensation control).

Hygienic air handling systems include exhaust fans, dampers, pre-filters, motor/ drives, refrigeration coils and final filters. All these components are housed within an insulated metal cabinet with access doors and typically located above the process production rooms it serves.

Here’s an interesting and important design change. Hygienic units are typically located on the roof. The air supply and return is transmitted by insulated ductwork down to the process space below and distributed via registers and grills.

All piping and major components that require service can be accessed on the roof without disturbing production areas. Likewise, the absence of evaporator units hanging in the production room space (in typical applications) helps processors improve space allocation and service accessibility without disruption of the production areas.

ESI Group can retrofit hygienic systems into older buildings. It’s an ideal approach for any food facility experiencing temperature, humidity, or condensation issues— and wanting to ensure optimum food safety at the same time.

ESI’s TIM NGUYEN is a regional vice president with 20 years in the cold storage industry.