Moisture control in food processingRyan Clancy | July 26, 2021
Moisture control is extremely important in food processing, as the presence of humidity and moisture in just one part of the processing line can result in the food being spoiled. When moisture is present, mildew, mold and bacteria are given the chance to grow. Condensation is a major source of moisture when storing cold food. However, risks such as these can easily be removed with technology that can control humidification and temperature.
The most important way to keep the processing facility, storage and production floor free from contaminants is to keep everything clean. A high standard of hygiene goes a long way to keeping food fresh and safe. Even if everything is kept clean, though, controlling the moisture in the air is also key to keeping food pure, and its importance is often underestimated. This can be achieved by lowering the level of moisture in the air using a dehumidifier (among other methods), which is cost-effective, and means that food can be kept fresh for longer. This in turn establishes a good relationship with customers and gives the brand a reputation for high-quality, fresh food.
How to control moisture in food processing
Food processing and production plants can save significant amounts of money with online moisture measurements that give continuous readings. In many cases, raw materials are measured by weight, and therefore knowing the amount of moisture within the food throughout the baking process is critical. Companies generally use a type of moisture sensor that can quickly measure the level of moisture within a manufacturer’s raw ingredients; this ends up saving the purchasing plant a considerable amount of money. These instant measurements can also result in savings in analysis, shipping and delivery.
It is also critical to be aware of the moisture content of food during the mixing stage of the manufacturing process. Water directly affects the end product’s consistency and quality, and too much or too little moisture produces variations of the food, out-of-spec recipes, and clumping within the food. Moisture testing and control in this stage gives flexibility to the mixer(s) to adjust the formula and correct the moisture level.
There are a few different tools that are typically used to monitor moisture:
- Food grade instruments
- Food grade protection
- Food grade radiofrequency (RF) sensors
- Pipeline moisture sensors
- Premium food-grade sensors
Food grade instruments
Food grade instruments are control and moisture measuring instruments that are specifically designed for the food processing industry. They are typically made out of stainless steel to further enhance the standard of hygiene, sanitation and cleanliness. These instruments sense the various characteristics of food through non-contact technology.
Food grade protection
As mentioned above, all food-grade moisture analyzers are equipped with stainless steel enclosures that minimize the risk of abrasion and other issues caused by the porous nature of standard enclosures. They also carry an IP67 water resistance rating which further protects the food from any added moisture.
Food-grade RF sensors
RF sensors give a source of radiofrequency dielectric measurement that can be adapted to many different stainless steel housings for various applications.
Pipeline moisture sensors
Pipeline moisture sensors are just one of five moisture management systems. They consist of an industrial-grade sensor integrated into existing pipelines of specific products that have a high level of viscosity, such as confectionery items. These are exceptionally durable and again made of stainless steel, plus they come in a number of styles depending on the pipe diameter size, pressure and temperature regulation needed to stop the material from becoming solid.
Premium food-grade sensors
These are the sensors that most food processors use to manage moisture in their materials in real time. They are versatile and come in many different shapes and sizes depending on the application.
Moisture control benefits
Some of the main benefits to controlling the moisture within the food processing cycle include reduced energy costs, reduced product waste, an effective process control system and improved quality control. These are all tangible and very real, direct consequences of moisture control. The intangible benefits, however, are much more impactful and important to a manufacturing plant or other plants where food is being processed. The delivery of a consistent, quality product to customers will build brand quality and in turn, drive up sales. The only way to ensure a quality product is to incorporate moisture control into the process.
High quality product
Moisture greatly impacts the storage and production of food. Products keep the highest standard of quality and have an accurate shelf life when the humidity in which it is produced and stored in is controlled. This can be achieved by using dehumidifiers and technology to control the temperature, and this results in a much higher quality product overall.
Once the humidity and temperature are controlled, it should be easy to produce the same end product using the same production processes all year round. There should be no need for seasonal adjustments, and the customer will receive the exact same product no matter the external conditions.
When organic materials or production equipment has a buildup of condensation, it creates a much higher risk of contamination occurring from mildew, microorganisms, or mold. This risk increases exponentially and can potentially cause illnesses to users. Condensation must be kept at bay by monitoring and controlling the moisture in the area.
Moisture control can directly affect the time it takes for a product to reach the market, especially if it needs to be cured or dried. Production efficiency can be greatly improved by implementing the correct equipment to control the food manufacturing environment.
What do you think is the best way to control moisture while food is being processed? Do know of any ways that the existing processes can be improved? Please let Engineering360 know your thoughts and if you have had any experience in this industry in the comments below!