Effective air filtration protects food production processes from germs and viruses

Product safety first

A large majority of food & beverage companies are considered as critical industries. In pandemic times they are challenged to maintain integrity of the food chain ensuring adequate and safe food supply for the consumers. That includes keeping all workers in food production healthy and safe reinforcing personal hygiene measures and improving hygiene controls in the production process. During pandemics, the food and beverage producer faces special questions regarding product safety and protection against contamination by pathogens, such as:
Can SARS-CoV-2 be transmitted via food? Which measures can be taken to safeguard operator protection, production and maintenance processes?

What you should know about the SARS-CoV-2 Corona virus

Coronavirus

Transmission path: Droplet and contact infection
SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing  COVID-19 infections, can cause diseases ranging from a normal cold to severe disease progression.
The WHO has declared the outbreak of this virus to be a health emergency of international concern.

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Your compact FAQ about food safety in pandemic times

  • Can SARS-CoV-2 or other viruses be transmitted by food?

    Expert advice is that COVID-19 is not transmitted by food (cf. BRCGS Food Safety, 2020).
    Besides the most common transmission method of the droplet infection, there does exist the risk of smear infections. In order to be affected by a smear infection, it is required to touch a contaminated surface picking up significant amounts of pathogens and then spreading these on human mucus membranes of mouth, nose or eyes where the pathogens may lead to infections (cf. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung BfR, 2020). However, both the WHO and the European Food Safety Authority state that it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020; European Commission, 2020).

  • Can imported food be a source of infection?

    WHO & FAO state explicitly that corona viruses cannot multiply in food; they need a living animal or human host to multiply (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020). More specifically, the BfR commented that it is unlikely that imported goods such as imported foods may be sources of an infection. This is due to the transmission methods recorded thus far and the relatively low environmental stability of coronaviruses (cf. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung BfR, 2020).

  • What needs to be considered when handling food packaging?

    The WHO states explicitly that it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020). In general, transmission via surfaces, which have recently been contaminated with viruses, is possible through smear infections. However this is only likely to occur during a short period after contamination, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment. According to the European Commission, there is no evidence that contaminated packages transmit the infection. Nonetheless, to address concerns that virus present on the skin might be able to transfer to the respiratory system (e.g., by touching the face), persons handling packaging, including consumers, should adhere to the guidance of public health authorities regarding good hygiene practices, including regular and effective handwashing (cf. European Commission, 2020).

  • Which transmission dangers need to be taken care of during food production?

    WHO & FAO state explicitly that corona viruses cannot multiply in food; they need a living animal or human host to multiply (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020). More specifically, the BfR has, so far, not registered any infections with SARS-CoV-2 via bakery goods, fresh fruit or vegetables, meat products, cow milk or contaminated frozen food. Furthermore, there is also no evidence that animal feed is a vehicle for coronaviruses (cf. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung BfR, 2020).
    Manufacturers of foods and beverages therefore need to focus all efforts on keeping their workforce safe and healthy and ensuring (regular) high levels of food safety according to established standards (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020; BRCGS Food Safety, 2020).

  • What needs to be considered during food preparation processes?

    WHO & FAO state explicitly that corona viruses cannot multiply in food; they need a living animal or human host to multiply (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020). More specifically, the BfR has, so far, not registered any infections with SARS-CoV-2 via bakery goods, fresh fruit or vegetables, meat products, cow milk or contaminated frozen food. Furthermore, there is also no evidence that animal feed is a vehicle for coronaviruses (cf. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung BfR, 2020).
    Consumers preparing food at home should observe the general rules of hygiene, which include thorough washing of the food and frequent handwashing, particularly when preparing fruit, vegetables, and raw meat. Additional advice includes heating up food as it is well known that viruses are sensitive to heat, and further risk reduction can be performed with thermal treatment (cf. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung BfR, 2020).

  • Which hygiene measures do food and beverage manufacturers need to respect?

    Across the globe, the large majority of food and beverage companies are often considered as critical industries. As such, F & B companies play an essential role in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by maintaining the integrity of the food chain and ensuring that adequate and safe food supplies are available for consumers. As COVID-19 is not transmitted via food consumption or food packaging, the food and beverage industries have to meet two main challenges: firstly, safeguarding employee health and secondly, ensuring a high level of food safety (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020). 
    For employee health, it is imperative to reinforce personal hygiene measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of food surfaces and food packaging materials becoming contaminated with the virus from food workers. This includes proper utilization of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, but also physical distancing and stringent hygiene and sanitation measures (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020).
    Food safety is sufficiently taken care of by adhering to regularly established Food Safety & Quality Management Systems. These procedures prevent the contamination of foods and beverages by any pathogens and are, therefore, also suitable and sufficient to avoid contamination with SARS-CoV-2 (cf. European Commission, 2020; BRCGS Food Safety, 2020). Additional measures to account for the exceptional pandemic situation include recommendations by the European Union to limit external contacts, such as with suppliers or truck drivers, to the absolute necessary (cf. European Commission, 2020).
     

  • Which impact does COVID-19 have on hygiene management and hygiene controls?

    Independently from  pandemic situations, the food industry should have Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in place to manage food safety risks and prevent food contamination (cf. WHO & FAO, 2020). Accordingly, also the hygiene controls carried out by food operators in the European Union are intended to prevent contamination of the food by any pathogens, thus also including, but by no means being limited to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (cf. European Commission, 2020).
    Under the current conditions, there should be an even greater emphasis on managing Critical Control Points and all aspects of plant hygiene and personal hygiene as specified by established Food Safety & Quality Management Systems. This includes, among others, devoting particular care to high care or high-risk facilities where movement of people and products inside and outside these zones needs to be strictly controlled at all times (cf. BRCGS Food Safety, 2020).

  • How are maintenance processes in food and beverage companies affected by COVID-19?

    The recommendation for food businesses to limit their external contacts to the absolute necessary might result in a disrupted access to the plant for routine maintenance measures. This means that planned preventive maintenance programs will need to be reviewed to set minimum maintenance levels acceptable to run the plant without unacceptable increased risk of breakdown. However, all items and processes that could result in product contamination and as such impact on food safety need to be regularly inspected according to planned maintenance programs. This includes but is not limited to parts at risk of failure, damage or rapid wear, such as sieves, rubber gaskets, and conveyor belts (cf. European Commission, 2020; BRCGS Food Safety, 2020).

  • Which implications result from COVID-19 for the ventilation systems in food and beverage companies?

    Air handling units and ventilation systems themselves are not a source of the virus and do not contribute to its spreading provided that they are designed and operated according to the state of the art. Both REHVA, the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations, and VDMA, the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, recommend
    1. using effective air filters of at least filter class H 13 according to EN 1822 which separate 99,95% of all contamination in the particle range relevant to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (80-160nm)
    2. maintaining ventilation and air conditioning systems in a perfectly hygienic state, operating flawlessly, for example without leakages.


    Further, expert advice is to provide as much ventilation of spaces with outdoor air as possible while reducing the share of recirculated air to a minimum, at best switching air handling units with recirculation to 100% outdoor air.
    Filter replacement and maintenance as well as duct cleaning procedures shall follow the regularly installed rhythms. Operating workers shall respect all common protective measures including appropriate personal protective equipment and particularly respiratory protection (cf. REHVA 2020; VDMA 2020).

Literature

BRCGS Food Safety (2020): Managing Food Safety during Covid-19. BRCGS Guidance Document. London. URL: www.brcgs.com/media/2082504/food-safety-covid-19-guideline-unlocked.pdf (last cited: 26.05.2020).

Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (2020): Can the new type of coronavirus be transmitted via food & objects? URL: https://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/349/can-the-new-type-of-coronavirus-be-transmitted-via-food-and-objects.pdf

European Commission (2020): COVID-19 and food safety. Questions and Answers. Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety. Bruxelles. URL: https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/biosafety_crisis_covid19_qandas.pdf (last cited: 27.05.2020).

WHO & FAO (2020): COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses. URL: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/covid-19-and-food-safety-guidance-for-food-businesses (last cited: 26.05.2020).

REHVA (2020): REHVA Covid-19 guidance document, August 3, 2020. URL: https://www.rehva.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/REHVA_COVID-19_guidance_document_V3_03082020.pdf (last cited: 27.08.2020).

VDMA (2020): Ventilation and air conditioning systems in times of Covid-19. Principles of operation and use. URL: https://klt.vdma.org/documents/105879/48327131/Ventilation%20and%20air%20conditioning%20systems%20in%20times%20of%20COVID-19%20Principles%20of%20operation%20and%20use/5d98bf63-6457-5545-dadb-c1180f6860f4?t=552487.25


Particles and harmful microorganisms that should be prevented from entering food production

[Translate to English (US):] Dust and harmful microorganisms

Dangers in typical high risk, clean room production zones

Air quality is a central prerequesite of food safety. Environmental air of a specified quality - in terms of temperature, humidity, particle concentration and quality of air - is required both to reduce the possibility of contamination and to protect the health and welfare of employees. The control of these four parameters contributes significantly to qualified ambient and recirculated air in food production processes.


Fewer viruses thanks to multi-stage air filter systems

Effectively reduce the risk of infection in production zones

Indoors, air filtration minimizes the risk of being exposed to pathogens such as viruses and bacteria and helps to improve the air quality. Therefore, high-quality, individually adapted air filtration systems are recommended, especially for sensitive, high-risk areas of the food & beverage industry.
The state of the art for ventilation and air conditioning systems is described in the EHEDG Doc. 47 and in the German VDI 6022 guideline (for general ventilation and air conditioning systems). Further orientation is provided by the EUROVENT 4/23-2018 recommendations. These include suggestions for suitable air filter selection depending on outdoor air conditions (ODA categories) and supply air quality (SUP categories).

[Translate to English (US):] fewer-viruses-multi-stage-air-filter-systems

Clean air from an efficient filter system

Filter stage 1In a first step, pocket filters separate most of the larger particles (PM10) such as dust and pollen from the supply and recirculated air. Their low pressure drops make them particularly energy efficient. Such a one-stage concept is suitable for areas where pre-packaged food products are stored (low hygiene zones).

Filter stage 2Almost all PM2,5 particles are filtered in filter stage 2. Cassette filters excel here with their high dust holding capacity and stable separation efficiency. Typical air handling units (AHU) in food production processes have a two-stage filtration system (medium hygiene zones). Installed prefilters should be of a high filtration grade of minimum ePM 10 50%.

Filter stage 3The third stage with HEPA filters is responsible for ensuring sterility and clean room air quality. A HEPA filter of filter class H14 removes more than 99.995 % of the remaining particles, germs and viruses from the air. This effectively minimizes the risks of contracting infections indoors and of contaminating products in high-risk production zones.
 

What you need to consider to run an efficient filter system

  • Clean air from an efficient filter system avoids particle contamination and protects the clean room.
  • Conditioned air controls temperature and humidity, reducing the growth of microorganisms.
  • Every production process has its own specific requirements. The most effective filter system is therefore always a tailor-made solution considering
    (1) individual process requirements, (2) local outdoor air quality (ODA) and (3) the requested supply air quality (SUP).

The virus testing program for your food production processes

Customized service modules for hygienically clean air during pandemics

Regardless of whether it is about meat processing, production processes in dairy or cheese factories or the manufacture of convenience products: the ventilation systems for these production areas must be well maintained and hygienically flawless. Effective protection of the ventilation system against germs and viruses - and currently especially against the SARS-CoV-2 virus - is essential in order to limit the risk of infection for employees and the spread of viruses. With suitable filtration solutions, a correctly operating ventilation system and a specific system check for SARS-CoV-2, you can ensure both the health of your employees and optimal protection of system components and devices.


Our solution for effective virus protection of your ventilation system: two brand-new Viledon filterCair service modules

  • Module System Check COVID-19 Basic
    The basic inspection of your ventilation system for COVID-19
     
  • Module System Check COVID-19 + Hygiene Monitoring VDI 6022
    An all-in-one testing procedure that evaluates your ventilation system against COVID-19 and general hygiene requirements and makes recommendations for improvement

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The virus testing program for your food production processes

New service packages to combat germs and viruses in ventilation systems

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