Mitigating Mold in Food and Beverage Facility Construction
Many of today’s food and beverage companies are adding on to existing facilities vs. building new. They’re adding or retrofitting space for additional product offerings, storage capacity and to promote employee safety and well-being. However, in this process, there could be a hidden danger—mold.
Mold is a part of everyday life. It can grow on virtually any substance, and can be found in any manufacturing plant or distribution center, especially those producing temperature-controlled products. And, sometimes, mold isn’t even visible.
That’s why, when left unchecked, mold can create deeper, more serious problems, especially during a facility expansion or addition project.
“[Mold] occurs when the building envelope is disrupted, mechanical systems are not providing proper air quality and normal protocols are not followed. These factors may cause moisture (relative humidity) to increase,” says David Bye, executive project director, ESI Group USA, Hartland, Wis. “During new construction, building materials can be subjected to rain, moisture and environmental conditions. That introduces moisture and promotes the growth of mold. In certain conditions, buildings must be dried out. Otherwise, mold will be allowed to propagate and spread.”
The only way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. For instance, food plants that require frequent washdown can increase moisture and relative humidity levels. Mold can also grow inside a common wall between office and refrigerated spaces such as docks or coolers, where humidity and condensation form. When in operation, mechanical (HVAC) systems and dehumidification will keep moisture levels at desired levels, Bye adds.
Furthermore, certain parts of the country are at a higher risk of harboring mold, usually facilities located in coastal regions or where there’s higher levels of annual rainfall.
“Basically, damp areas as opposed to arrid environments are at higher risk,” Bye says. “If a building has a mold problem, it must be cleaned up and the source of moisture must be eliminated. When mold is suspected, ESI engages a testing/inspection consultant that specializes in mold. They inspect the building, take samples and analyze the type of molds and extent to which they are present. Once the testing and inspection process is complete, ESI assists owners in hiring a remediation contractor to remove and treat the molds.”
To mitigate mold, food and beverage companies must be proactive.
“It starts with proper building maintenance programs,” adds Bye. “Established building maintenance and routine equipment service is the first line of defense. It is equally important employees be educated in the awareness and presence of indoor molds.”
Bye suggests walking through office areas and looking at drywall above the floor and ceiling areas and checking lighting grills and vents on diffusers.
“You’re looking for evidence of moisture,” he adds. “During the colder months, look at windows for condensation.”
Any food distributor and manufacturer is at risk. It’s imperative that companies conduct due diligence on their facilities to ensure mold doesn’t become a problem. Mold may be a part of everyday life, but it doesn’t need to be a part of the food and beverage manufacturing and distribution process.