What is Food Grade Air Compressor?

In today’s highly automated food industry, compressed air is widely used. For certain specialized processes in the food sector, compressed air may come into direct contact with the products. In areas with specific chemical processes, the air may already be contaminated. If pollutants come into direct contact with food without proper separation, various physical and chemical reactions may occur, leading to potential harm to consumers and unnecessary losses for businesses.

Today, let’s discuss the use of compressed air in the food industry.

Proper Understanding of Compressed Air

Direct Contact:
Compressed air used as part of the production and processing process, including the packaging and transportation of safe food, where compressed air comes into direct contact with finished food or its ingredients as part of the production process.
For example: using air for cooling and moving finished products from one process to another, where compressed air should have the same quality priority as any other ingredient.

Indirect Contact:
Refers to compressed air discharged into the general environment of food, including its packaging, processes, production equipment, or the storage location of food and its components.
For example: using compressed air to blow-mold PET bottles or preparing and opening bags before pouring in food, similar to starting valves by compressed air near finished food or its ingredients.

Many food production facilities “over-protect” their compressed air systems, emphasizing the importance of non-contact low-risk systems. Most factories have a significant proportion (over 50%) of compressed air entering “factory air” applications that do not come into contact with food or food packaging machinery.

Regulations and Standards

To ensure optimal food safety and reduce consumer risks, adherence to these requirements is crucial. International standards are helpful in this regard. For instance, ISO 8573-1:2010 outlines critical quality requirements for compressed air, specifying maximum values for pollutant content and particle sizes in various classes.

As an example, for compressed air directly in contact with dry food (e.g., grains, powdered milk), the quality classification according to ISO 8573-1:2010 is as follows:

Solid particles: Class 1
Water: Class 2
Oil: Class 1

For compressed air in contact with non-dry food (e.g., beverages, meat, vegetables), the classification is:

Solid particles: Class 1
Water: Class 4
Oil: Class 1

Indirect contact with food and food indirect contact with compressed air, such as food production workshop environment of the air and food contact, as well as blowing bottles, packaging and so on. The quality of compressed air for this type of indirect contact shall comply with the following ISO8573.1-2010 standards:

Solid particulate matter class: Class 2

Humidity level: 4

Oil content grade: 2

Food Grade Air Compressor

Direct food contact Compressed air in direct contact with foodstuffs, such as food ingredients, fermentation, mixing, bagging and other process operations. This type of compressed air must be treated to remove dust, water, oil and bacteria to ensure the safety of compressed air for food. This type of compressed air should comply with the following ISO8573.1-2010 standards:

Solid particulate matter class: Class 2

Humidity level: 2

Oil content grade: 1

Sterilisation workshop

In addition, the “Quality Levels of Air Medium for Pneumatic Components and Systems” (JB/T5967-2007) stipulates that the air quality for food and beverage processing should comply with ISO8573.1-2010 standards:

Solid particle class: 2

Humidity class: 3

Oil class: 1

See the attached table for the pollutant content and corresponding levels according to ISO8573.1-2010:

Contaminant content according to ISO 8573.1

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Selection of Compressed Air Systems

The food industry faces the challenge of choosing a safe and effective compressed air system. To make informed decisions, it is necessary to first determine how the enterprise uses compressed air in the production system.

Regular risk assessments are also effective in monitoring whether compressed air poses a risk to food safety. Production companies need to pay close attention to potential risks related to compressed air pollution in food production. After the initial risk assessment and classification of compressed air use, it is essential to ensure that each category and application provides the correct air quality and complies with applicable air quality standards.

As a highly automated food production industry, compressed air is widely used in various industrial processes such as beer and beverage production, food fermentation, packaging, driving automation components, liquid conveyance, bottle blowing, and more.


The Importance of Food-Grade Air Compressors

Due to the crucial relationship between food safety and public health, the selection of compressed air systems must be done rationally and correctly. This is vital for ensuring the quality and safety of food products.

Compressed Air Contaminants

  • Atmospheric Contaminants

Compressed air systems intake a large amount of air from the environment, bringing in contaminants such as oil vapors, water vapors, dust, and microorganisms.

  • 2. Lubricating Oil
Oil-lubricated compressors may introduce oil contaminants into compressed air during the compression process. Even with oil-free compressors, atmospheric oil cannot be completely removed.
  • 3. System Pipelines
In pipeline systems, oil, oil vapors, water, and other substances precipitate over time, forming oil residues that can continuously pollute downstream usage areas. These areas are prone to bacterial growth due to warm and humid conditions.

Almost all compressed air used by food enterprises comes into direct or indirect contact with food. While some companies opt for oil-free compressors, cost considerations lead many to choose oil-injected screw machines for production. According to regulations, food-grade lubricating oil must be used in all stages of direct and indirect food contact. However, the price difference between food-grade and conventional lubricating oils remains a concern for many food companies.

Existing Solutions for Oil Impurity

  • Activated Carbon Filter for Oil Removal:

Despite using oil-free compressors, atmospheric oil cannot be entirely eliminated. Therefore, installing oil removal equipment in the form of activated carbon filters in the system is a necessary measure.

However, due to the limited adsorption capacity of activated carbon and its inability to regenerate, determining its effective usage time is challenging, leading to contamination of downstream compressed air pipelines and equipment, affecting product quality.

  • Catalytic Oxidation Type Oil Removal Equipment:

The second solution involves adding a catalytic oxidation type oil removal purification device to the system. This equipment operates on the principle of catalytic oxidation reactions between oil substances in compressed air and oxygen within the catalyst’s pores under certain temperature conditions.

This process completely decomposes oil substances into carbon dioxide and water, achieving oil removal. This technology uses a chemical reaction to remove oil and is not influenced by environmental air quality, ensuring compressed air quality.

Kotech Group‘s 0-grade oil-free compressed air oil removal purification series equipment can be directly installed in existing compressed air systems, whether the gas source is an oil-free compressor or an oil-injected compressor.

The oil removal purification equipment can effectively remove liquid oil, aerosol, and oil vapors from compressed air, providing a stable and reliable oil-free and aseptic compressed air solution for food enterprises.(Click here for more industry applications)