The importance of dust control in food manufacturing
Sometimes the importance of controlling and removing food dusts can be under estimated. As products such as flour, custard powder etc are used in cooking in the home without issue, companies may not realise the health problems that they can cause when they are present in high amounts within a food-based manufacturing environment.
Specific health issues related to food dust
- Food dusts are often asthmagens - which means that in high volumes they can cause asthma among people exposed to them. Flour dust is an asthmagen as is sugar dust.
- Some are also carcinogens - i.e. they have been proven to cause cancer in some people. For example the dried banana flavouring found in products such as custard powder is a carcinogen if it is ingested into the lungs. When it is reconstituted into custard and eaten however it is harmless, so it is during a commercial manufacturing process that it causes issues to workers, rather than at home.
- Some food dusts such as flour also contain enzymes which can cause allergic reactions in some people following prolonged exposure as well as respiratory issues once inhaled.
Companies in the UK are legally required to reduce their employees exposure to harmful dusts as low as 'feasibly practible', meaning that reliable dust extraction in food manufacture is a requirement that companies must explore if they want to avoid potential prosecution.
For more detail about HSE requirements both in general and specifically relating to food, please see our downloads section here
Other risks affecting system design
- If food dusts are not removed from the environment effectively they can cause explosions. This means careful design of a dust extraction system is required to ensure that the extraction plant is located outside.
- Manufacturing areas need to be kept very clean to avoid contamination - so extraction has to be designed so that there are no flat surfaces where dust might collect and to ensure that there is space around and under food enclosures to enable cleaning. Additionally there must be no crevices or gaps where dust might collect and pipework must be accessible for ease of cleaning.
- The whole journey of the dust needs to be carefully considered when designing extraction, so for example if food dust is extracted to a bin, consideration also needs to be given to how that bin will be emptied to avoid exposure and the risk of secondary explosion.
Vent-Tech have installed dust extraction systems at many big food manufacturers including Aunt Bessies, Mission Foods and Greencore. We offer a system design service so you can utilise our expertise for a small initial outlay (which will be discounted from the installation if you choose to proceed with Vent-Tech) and which allows you to then compare installation quotes from different companies for the same system. We guarantee our systems will meet HSE recommendations, so if installed as per the design you can be confident that your staff are protected and you are meeting your HSE obligations.