New Job In Quality Assurance In Food Manufacturing? What You Need To Know About Contaminants & Air Compressors

Every day in the United States, food is recalled. If you have just been hired to be in charge of quality assurance in a food manufacturing facility, your worst fear may be being notified by the USDA or FDA of a requested food recall. Because of this, you will need to take great care in establishing and enforcing guidelines for the employees of your facility to follow so food does not become contaminated. However, there is another potential culprit of contamination that you need to be aware of—air compressors. Here's what you need to know.


There are three main contaminants that can easily be found in the air in food manufacturing facilities: moisture, oil, and particles.

  • Air naturally has some amount of moisture in it in the form of water vapor.
  • Oil can often be found in the air due to cooking processes.
  • Particles (such as microorganisms, bacterium, dust, and allergens) can be in the air.

If these contaminants get into the food your facility is manufacturing and/or packaging, they can cause illnesses. Obviously, this can lead to a major recall for your facility, which can cause downtime to thoroughly eliminate the contaminants.

Air Compressors

It's important to understand how an air compressor works so you can understand how these contaminants can get into them. Air compressors have intake vents to pull in air. When air containing these 3 contaminants is pulled into the system, the compressed air can become contaminated.

Due to this, air compressors have valves to expel the contaminants that accumulates out and into a condensation holding tank. If this tank is not emptied on a regular basis or the fluid control valve is not functioning properly, the water in the system may be in the compressed air as it leaves the nozzle.

Air compressors also have filters to contain particles. The filters should be cleaned on a regular basis. Most air compressors have sensors that detect when the filter needs to be changed in order for the system to remain effective. Since this is important, some air compressors have fail-safe mechanisms that shut down the system if the filter needs to be replaced.

Air Audits

In addition to regular maintenance on the air compressors, it's important to conduct tests of the compressed air produced from them. This is done by taking samples of the compressed air and testing the samples to see if contaminants are present. There are several types of testing procedures, including ones that are done by using a laser to count particles and a handheld hygrometer that tests for water vapor.

These devices can be purchased or rented for use. Alternatively, you can hire an air compressor service technician to perform these tests on a regular basis for scheduled tests or as-needed for spot-testing, which may depend on the type of manufacturing facility you have. For example, a facility that uses large vats of heated oil for food preparation may need more frequent testing to ensure that oil is not in the air compressor system.

Another method of testing is by removing the contents from the filter and using a microscope to see what organisms and particles may be present. This type of testing can only be done by an accredited laboratory, since an untrained eye will not know how to identify various cells, minute particles, and other materials.

Therefore, this type of testing is something you should consider when the in-house testing equipment registers that there are contaminants in your air compressors. If contaminants are found during testing procedures, you'll need to shut down the facility in order to thoroughly clean the air compressor system or your facility.

For more information about air compressors and how to keep them clean, contact professionals or websites or you could try these out.