24 May 2018

How Temporary Heating and Cooling are Crucial to Avoid Bacteria Growth?

Food and Beverage Industry

The Romaine lettuce E coli bacteria outbreak has been reported in 32 different U.S. states with over 170 cases in 2018. 

The romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak is likely over as the original harvest from Arizona is no longer available across the country. Authorities recently declared romaine safe to eat again, however, we must be very careful to avoid future contaminations. Undercooked meat, untreated milk or poorly washed vegetables and fruits are the most common causes for contamination. The treatment to avoid bacteria growth starts from the beginning of its production and packaging at food and beverage plants.

Bacteria can adapt to any type of environment which why it can be found in so many different places across the globe. With certain conditions such as high temperatures and moisture levels, the spread of bacteria can increase at an alarming rate. 

Pasteurization process

A very common and traditional process to avoid bacteria growth is the pasteurization. Many food and beverage products require pasteurization. This is not a high-tech process – in fact it’s a very old process, invented by the famous French microbiologist Louis Pasteur in the 1800’s. Pasteurization is a method of killing harmful bacteria in a food or beverage product. Before pasteurization, food safety was a huge risk, at least for commercial production.

Pasteurization involves rapidly heating the substance to a high temperature such as 180F or 170F, holding it there for a few minutes, and then rapidly chilling it to 50F or 40F. This process can be done either before or after the product is in a container or package, from a 10 oz. can to a 30-gallon steel drum. 

Food processing plants often have extra steam capacity, since they use steam for food processes like pasteurization, cooking a product and cleaning equipment. When there is a need to increase production, the plant often has spare steam capacity, but does not have the additional chilling/refrigeration capacity, so rental equipment becomes crucial. On the other hand, sometimes the existing refrigeration equipment can’t keep up with the heat load, or it fails, and the plant will rent a chiller until the existing chiller is repaired or replaced. 

Another instance where a food processor may need temporary cooling is when they are experimenting with a new pasteurization process or a new product. There are also seasonal needs, such as certain juices that are produced only during certain time of the year. With a mobile and temporary cooling solution, there is no capital expenditure of buying a new owned chiller and it also eliminates the maintenance and other risks of ownership.

From cooking to packaging

Let’s take another example from the food and beverage industry. Hams are often fully cooked or partially cooked before packaging. Like pasteurization, hams are heated quickly, held at a high temperature, and then rapidly chilled. The hams are cooked in their can to kill all bacteria and remain sealed for extended storage life. The cans must then be cooled to continue the packaging process. Providing a larger chiller, supplemental chilling, or a higher flow rate, can chill the hams faster, allowing a plant to produce more tons of ham each shift or each day.

Chicken production also relies on cooling processes. A chicken carcass must be chilled quickly to below 40F to avoid any bacteria growth. This is usually accomplished by dunking the carcass into an ice water bath or a chilled water bath or a stream of flowing chilled water. It could take several minutes to cool the entire carcass down – sometimes requiring it to remain in the water as long as 30 minutes. 

A large plant usually has from 5,000 to 20,000 tons of refrigeration. Even with that many cooling capacity, a temporary chiller may be essential to either quickly replace a chiller failure as an emergency or to offer supplemental cooling to reduce the load on the freezers. With a quicker cooling cycle, it’s possible to increase production, improve product quality, lower energy costs and prevent downtime.

After the whole preparation cycle of food and beverage, comes the most important part of the process: the packaging. Most food & beverage products are susceptible to changes in temperature. The end product of a manufacturing plant is always more valuable than the raw materials or ingredients. It’s the same with food – it’s most valuable right before and after it’s packaged and shipped. There’s also more risk here. 

Temperatures in packaging areas can affect product quality, consistency, shelf life, and stability. And a faulty product can also damage the packaging materials itself. And by packaging – we mean bottles, jars, cans, cardboard, paper, and plastic. Temporary air conditioners and chillers with air handlers for packaging area of all types of food & beverage processors are also extremely important to either increase or maintain production during hottest seasons and to improve the quality of the products. 

Although the most common application for the industry involves process cooling or areas refrigeration, we can also provide temporary heaters for processing equipment in order to kill bacteria and insects. For instance, we’ve eliminated bacteria by using high temperature tarps and 160F heat for up to 48 hours at affected areas of a meal-ready frozen food production line. 

Without the right power, cooling and moisture-control, producers can face big headaches. And bacteria can find the perfect conditions to grow. We know the needs of the food and beverage industry inside out. This means we can step up whenever it’s necessary – keeping conditions at their best, so there is no pause in production and no contamination.