Excess moisture in a food processing and packaging facilities can cause extensive problems for the consumable products, the building, and worker health and productivity. With condensation control solutions and technologies, a facility can remain compliant with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, save money and prevent the need for mold remediation. By establishing a condensation and moisture control plan, you can mitigate moisture-related problems and ensure the safety of the overall operation.
Considerations for an Effective Condensation Control Plan
What are Safe Moisture Levels in the Facility?
The USDA states that the safe-moisture level in a facility is based on water activity or Aw. The best level prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms in food, the finished product, and throughout the facility.
What are the Environmental Monitoring Zones within the Facility?
In addition to food contact surfaces, air, and personnel, water is a primary contamination concern in food processing facilities. Knowing the specific contamination zones in the facility will help you improve sanitation efforts and humidity control.
- Zone 1: This area is at the most risk for contamination and generally includes food contact surfaces, such as those on production equipment (i.e., conveyor belts and blenders).
- Zone 2: This area consists of indirect food contact surfaces, such as production equipment parts that workers may touch. In regards to humidity, this zone may include drains if a plant uses a wet cleanup process. Moisture may also build up in HVAC units, particularly in the filters.
- Zone 3: This zone includes the floors, walls, and items that touch the floor, but are further away from the foods processed in the second zone. Such items include mops, automatic washers, brushes, hand trucks, and forklifts.
- Zone 4: The areas furthest away from the production area, such as bathrooms and hallways.
How Will You Regulate Humidity?
Establish ways for the facility to limit and control humidity to prevent the need for mold remediation. Such techniques may include:
- Regularly monitoring the water activity of food
- Regular moisture testing
- Controlling the ratio of water to soluble solids in finished food
- Using a moisture barrier so the water activity of finished foods doesn’t increase to unsafe levels
- Routinely inspecting the building for leaks
- Immediately fixing leaks
- Immediately drying moisture on areas such as walls and windows
- Regularly replacing the filters in HVAC and air filtration system
What are Your Cleaning Processes?
Cleaning processes in food industry facilities directly affect moisture levels. Whenever a surface gets wet, it must be sanitized and dried before using it again. An effective strategy that helps reduce cross-contamination and moisture-related problems is to have a separate set of cleaning tools for each zone in a facility. When cleaning, employees only use the tools dedicated to the respective zone.
If ambient conditions prolong drying times when wet cleaning, a facility should consider using temporary climate control solutions. These solutions use technologies that create ideal temperature and ventilation levels that speed up drying, eliminate the excess moisture, keep workers comfortable and improve productivity.
Does the Building Promote Sanitary Conditions and Condensation Control?
Ideally, the food processing plant should help make sanitation and humidity control efforts simpler. Ways to do this include:
- Choosing wall, ceiling, and flooring materials that are easy to clean, non-porous, and resist condensation within the facility
- Installing a ceiling made from fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) to aid condensation control
- Eliminating seams between wall, ceiling, and flooring material by using caulk to prevent water buildup
- Using tight seals and weather stripping around windows
- Ensuring that door frames and ledges are flush with the walls so they don’t collect dust and moisture
- Installing recessed lights
- Avoiding the installation of sewage pipes and exposed overhead pipes over production areas
- Installing back-flow prevention devices in water lines
- Filtering the air within the facility
- Sloping wall floor junctions to prevent water accumulation
- Maintaining the temperature and airflow throughout the facility helps prevent condensation
Humidity control is essential to the safety and quality of the goods produced within the food industry. Polygon offers climate control solutions that complement condensation prevention plans and help reduce the demand on HVAC units, conserve energy, improve productivity and promote sanitary conditions. Contact Polygon to learn more about our custom solutions today.
[Photo from GollyGforce via CC License 2.0]