Manufacturers are legally bound to ensure the quality of the final product by identifying potential hazards and controlling them, typically by using a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach. While EU Regulation (EC) No. 852 / 2004 states that “Steam used directly in contact with food is not to contain any substance that presents a hazard to health or is likely to contaminate the food”, the regulation doesn’t specify the acceptable quality or purity of steam. As an essential component in food and drink production, steam is a primary source for applications such as food heating and sterilisation. In the absence of regulatory requirements related to the quality or purity of steam, manufacturers are adopting good manufacturing practice by switching to clean steam. Francisco Pedrosa, Clean Steam Specialist at Spirax Sarco explains how a switch to clean steam can benefit food and drink manufacturers in the drive to controlling the correct quality and purity of steam time and time again.
Is steam filtration good enough?
Filtered steam - more commonly known as culinary steam, is essentially plant steam passed through a stainless steel filter which removes 95% of all particles larger than 2 microns in size. While filtered steam is generally regarded as the minimum grade for food and drink processing, the filtration process to produce filtered steam only minimises rust, pipe scale and other corrosion-based particulates from finding their way into the end product. Filtration is not designed to remove suspended water (droplets) from the steam (in the form of boiler carryover) and therefore still presents a possibility of process or product contamination.
Steam filters can be used to minimise the level of contaminate particles in filtered steam. However even filtered steam can still pose a risk due to inconsistent water treatment, boiler carryover and cross contamination from other areas of the process.
Making the switch to clean steam generation
Clean Steam generation is proving the answer for many steam using applications in food and drink manufacturing where tougher standards and public concerns over recent food and health scares have made steam quality and purity of paramount importance in ensuring the quality of the final product in line with the HACCP approach.
Clean Steam generation eliminates any possible contaminants present in the steam to provide consistency in steam quality and purity throughout the manufacturing process. To generate clean steam, controlled chemical free feedwater namely reversed osmosis (RO) is fed through a secondary 316L stainless steel generator to ensure steam quality is kept at the appropriate levels. Certified and compliant with the Food Contact Materials regulation EC1935/2004, the generator keeps the appropriate steam quality and purity required at a consistent level. By controlling the feedwater quality at source, the generator removes the reliance on filtered steam, which only partially eliminates the risk of contaminates from the steam finding their way into the final product. With increasing hygiene and safety concerns amongst major retailers and consumers around the use of plant and filtered steam in direct contact with food or drink or for sterilisation purposes, food and drink manufacturers can look to alleviate those concerns by adopting good manufacturing practice and switching to clean steam generation.
Top Tip: If you are considering the purchase of a clean steam generator, check that it is supplied with the correct certification to ensure it’s manufactured in accordance with food contact and sterilisation regulations.
The role of steam in relation to HACCP
Through HACCP, manufacturers can look at the role of steam within the process by:
This allows food and drink manufacturers to adopt good engineering practices, leading towards a reduction in energy costs and water consumption as well as improvements in productivity, energy wastage and emissions.
To find out more on clean steam generation or to find out more information on how a steam quality assessment can benefit your process, go to sxscom.uk/foodandbevsteamquality.
Francisco Pedrosa - EMEA Business Development & Steam Quality Specialist
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