How Dry Air Affects Food Processing Facilities

Do you work in the food processing industry? If so, you’ll want to pay a close attention to the relative humidity (RH) in your workplace. Allow the RH to drop below the “normal” range can have devastating consequences on perishable foods. And when products become damage, the business may suffer heavy financial losses. You can prevent such heartache, however, by maintaining a suitable RH in your workplace, bumping up the humidity when needed.

Before we reveal the affects of dry air on perishable foods, let’s first go over the basics of relative humidity. It’s a common assumption that RH refers to the actual amount of moisture vapor in the air. While this isn’t entirely wrong, it’s not accurate either. RH is the amount of moisture vapor in the air over the amount needed for total saturation at the air’s current temperature, as expressed in a percentage. Because warm air holds less moisture, it generally has a lower RH than cold air, hence the preference towards relative humidity as opposed to absolute humidity.

Humidity affects practically everything (including the human body). When the RH is high, objects in the immediate surroundings will become saturated with moisture. You’ve probably noticed your bathroom windows fog up after taking a hot bath or shower. This is the direct result of humidity saturating the walls and windows. Well, this same principle holds true for dry air, only its effects are different than that of humid air.

Dry air can take its toll on workers in the food processing industry, causing nosebleeds, headaches, allergic attacks, and increases the risk of infection. Furthermore, it can also take its toll on perishable foods and ingredients used in products. This is particularly true in the case of certain fruits such as apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc. While some foods are best preserved in dry environments, other foods (like those previously mentioned) should be stored in humid environments. Exposure to dry air may cause these foods to dry up.

So, how do you protect perishable foods from the damaging effects of dry air? The easiest and most effective solution is to use a commercial-grade humidifier. As the name suggests, these devices are designed to emit moisture back into the air; thus, making it more humid. Furthermore, humidifiers have control settings which allows users to specify the exact humidity that want the air.

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