Accuracy is crucial in food testing labs. When temperature and relative humidity levels within a facility are not ideal, the conditions could skew results, change the composition of food and compromise the integrity of samples. By using humidity control for food labs, a facility will experience improved accuracy, manufacturing quality control, and consumer safety.
Properties Analyzed in Food Testing Labs
- Composition: Food’s composition determines its nutrition, safety, quality attributes, sensory characteristic and physicochemical properties. Testing allows analysts to determine the concentration of food components and their molecules, such as proteins and vitamins. When conditions are not ideal, food will degrade in its composition and nutritional value.
- Structure: A food’s structural organization plays a large role in its properties and characteristics. Different types of food can have the same composition, but different quality attributes. For example, warm temperatures cause ice cream to melt and change in structure, even after it’s re-frozen.
- Physicochemical properties: Food’s physicochemical properties influence its sensory attributes, perceived quality, and how it behaves when produced, stored and consumed. Physicochemical properties analyzed include:
- Opticalproperties: How food responds to light.
- Rheological properties: How food changes in shape or flow in response to force (e.g., the spreadability of peanut butter).
- Stability: How the properties in food resists change with time. Lab conditions that are too warm, cool, arid or humid affect food stability and the accuracy of results, and could promote the growth of yeast, mold and bacteria.
- Flavor: Analysts study the concentration, release and type of flavor molecules in food. Degradation due to non-ideal conditions alter the way food tastes and smell.
- Sensory attributes: Food analysts test how food looks, smells, tastes, feels and sounds. Such tests ensure foods have desirable properties before they’re sold on the market.
Climate Control Standards in Food Testing Labs
Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperatures and relative humidity levels in food testing labs depend on the type of food tested, the analyses performed and geographic location. Fresh meat, for example, should be refrigerated in an area that’s 28.4°F with 90 percent relative humidity levels. Onions, on the other hand, perform best when refrigerated at 33.8°F with 65 to 70 percent relative humidity levels. Dry goods should have storage temperatures between 50°F and 70°F, depending on product, and relative humidity levels of 15 percent or less. When testing foods, analysts should notate a sample’s temperature, packaging style (e.g., plastic or paper), processing type (e.g., canned, fresh or frozen) and other physical attributes.
Acceptable conditions in testing areas are generally 68°F to 77°F with relative humidity levels of 35 to 50 percent, depending on the geographic location. Arid regions, for example, require higher humidity levels. Many protocols dictate that humidity levels and temperatures in storage, workspace and testing areas be monitored at all times.
Proper ventilation prevents cross-contamination and reduces exposure to toxic or harmful contaminants. Depending on the tests performed, a facility may need to maintain negative pressure between laboratory and adjacent non-laboratory spaces to prevent the migration of airborne contaminants, such as pathogens and pesticides.
Humidity Control for Food Labs
In some instances, a facility’s HVAC system does not provide adequate or reliable control over the environment in a lab, nor promote conditions that are conducive to food testing. For such situations, labs look to temporary humidity control solutions that monitor and control moisture, temperatures and ventilation. The best solutions are custom-built, like Polygon’s ExactAire®. The advanced system continuously monitors conditions in controlled environments. Its powerful battery array saves energy and ensures continuous logging and reliable alerts. Get in touch with Polygon today to learn more about trying ExactAire® in your lab.
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