In this blog post Segment Leader for Food and Beverage, Jordan Bettencourt, discusses meat processing and corresponding risks during production, as well as the importance of air quality in establishing a hygienic atmosphere.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, commercial building and office managers have increased their focus on improving indoor air quality (IAQ) to prevent the transmission of airborne viruses. While commercial industries are just catching up to speed, air quality has always been a consideration in the meat processing industry and becomes increasingly important. As such, facility managers in meat processing should take care to thoroughly understand possible challenges that can arise, and how they can be detrimental to employees working in meat processing as well as the product thereby affecting the final customers.
What Are the Concerns in Meat Processing?
Meat processing requires high hygiene practices as the improper handling of raw meat can have a number of consequences. Some of the most common concerns in meat processing include:
Various meats can be contaminated with harmful germs that can make individuals very sick when ingested. This contamination can occur during production or in other stages of the food production chain. During production, cross contamination of raw meat is likely to cause this. Common bacteria found in meat that cause sickness are Salmonella, E.Coli, and Clostridium perfringens. While raw foods of animal origin are most likely to be contaminated, fruits and vegetables can also contain harmful germs1.
Airborne Viruses and Particles
Scientific studies have shown that the recirculation of air in facilities can cause the spread of viruses. These studies have demonstrated that a virus can be suspended in the air for up to three hours in areas with poor ventilation2. Although viruses require host cells to survive and cannot directly grow in or on meat, they can be passed from live animals to humans. Therefore, virus control is particularly important in factory farming3. As such, production areas need a sufficient amount of supply air.
To avoid bacterial growth and maintain the quality and taste of meats, facilities must be kept cold, sometimes on the verge of freezing. This can be challenging due to aspects such as external weather changes and temperature swings indoors. Jordan Bettencourt states “as consistently cold temperatures are critical, it is necessary for meat producers to be focused on air circulation systems (air changes) and the introduction of as much fresh air as possible into the facilities.”
Jordan Bettencourt says “In meat processing applications, various stages can be affected by moisture. For instance, steam may be emitted from fresh animal carcasses when being prepared. Moreover, once the production process is complete, equipment and areas must be washed creating overspray and mist within the rooms resulting in high volumes of moisture reaching the air handling units (AHUs). Therefore, if a filter uses recirculated air, it should be fairly moisture resistant”. In critical applications where proper prefiltration is required, we do offer a water resistant filter, the 30/30 WR. The 30/30 Dual 9 is also a great prefiltration option that uses a water resistant beverage board for these types of first stage filtration applications.
Aside from the lingering threat of COVID-19, there are other aspects of employee safety. Hazardous chemicals, such as ammonia, are often used as refrigerants. Furthermore, those involved in meat packing can be exposed to biological hazards associated with handling live animals, their feces, or blood4.
How Can Product and Employee Safety Be Maintained in Meat Processing Facilities?
Tens of thousands of animals can be processed daily in meat processing facilities. Furthermore, there can be as many as 1500 employees overseeing a plant’s operation. Each step of the production process requires air filters with specific attributes due to the conditions they face5.
To address key concerns, as well as maintain product quality and employee safety, it is recommended that high quality clean air solutions be put in place. For proper prefiltration we recommend the 30/30 pleated filter, which has an efficiency of MERV 8/8A and is guaranteed to last longer than any other MERV 8 pleated filter. As another option, we suggest the 30/30 Dual 9, which is a 2” or 4” MERV 9/9A filter guaranteed to last 9-12 months depending on the application. If high moisture content in the air is a concern, we recommend the installation of the high strength synthetic Cam-Flo XLT filter in the second air filtration stage, which performs well in these applications compared to high loft glass media.
As a final stage, if required, a HEPA filter can be utilized. As ideal solutions in meat processing, we offer the Filtra 2000 or an Absolute HEPA filter. These air filters provide the utmost protection, and they have a 99.97% capture efficiency at 0.3 micron.
To combat odours, bacterial infection, and toxic gasses, it is recommended that the CamCarb CG be installed. This molecular filtration solution is most suitable for small exhaust air streams. These filters are filled with activated carbon or our new CamPure 32 media. This media is installed in an annular pattern with uninterrupted 360 degree geometry along the length of the filter. This ensures even air distribution over the entire filter area and maximizes filter lifetime.
For more targeted protection, the CamCleaner CC500 is a combination HEPA/gas filter. This air cleaner can also effectively trap odours and capture particles, which is important when handling live animals or raw meat.
What Are Other Benefits to High Quality Air Filtration in Meat Processing?
Apart from the evident benefit of cleaner air, the installation of high quality air filtration units can generate cost savings and allow for the reallocation of valuable time. This can be achieved by addressing energy, labour, and waste. As Jordan Bettencourt mentions,
“Many customers are likely to take an initial cost approach, but this often leads to a higher total cost thus potentially sacrificing quality and processing of the product. When purchasing air filters, the total cost of ownership (TCO) should be the main consideration.”
As an air filter collects particles, it eventually begins to build up on the filter media. To continue functioning, the air filter requires a stronger air flow, or air pressure. Our filters maintain a low pressure drop, therefore air handling units (AHUs) do not need to exert more effort than necessary.
If an air filtration system has a high dust holding capacity, less frequent filter changes are required. Furthermore, our air filters are innovatively packaged for easier handling. This aspect contributes to fewer change-outs and resources, which allows for the reallocation of labour hours to other critical areas.
As an added benefit of fewer filter change-outs, materials are disposed of less frequently. This can be beneficial for manufacturers attempting to be more environmentally conscious.
There are a variety of factors that determine which clean air solutions work best for meat processing facilities. Be sure to contact an experienced air filtration consultant to find products right for your building.
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,800 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/.
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