Food Processing


The food processing industry transforms raw agricultural materials into edible food and beverages for human consumption using either physical or chemical means. Generating revenue from the sale of their products to restaurants, groceries and convenience stores, the food processing sector consistently remains one of the biggest and highest producing in North America. The U.S. food manufacturing industry has an annual revenue of $790 billion and is comprised of approximately 27,000 businesses. In Canada, it is the second largest industry and boasts $112 billion in production value.

Common Processes

Food production involves the grinding of grain to produce flour as well as the cooking, canning, preserving and refrigeration of convenience foods and drinks. These processes pose a number of potential health risks to workers in industrial food production facilities if left unaddressed.

Because of the vast quantity of dust produced in food manufacturing, businesses face a number of challenges in protecting their workers. Whether it’s the milling of flour or the processing of spices, sugar, cereals and artificial additives, the dusts produced by these applications can have a disastrous effect on the health and well-being of workers.

The Dangers of Flour Production

The industrial activities of grinding mills, packaging plants and commercial bakeries all create high concentrations of airborne dusts that pose numerous health risks for workers. Common flour contaminants The seriousness of the health condition depends on the length of time of exposure, the concentration of airborne flour and its unique make-up. Flour dust may contain a number of contaminants that can further irritate the respiratory tract including:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Flavoring
  • Coloring
  • Silica
  • Fungi and other metabolites (mycotoxins)
  • Bacterial endotoxins
  • Insects
  • Mites
  • Mammalian Debris
  • Chemical additives (herbicides and pesticides)

Some health conditions due to flour dust exposure may not surface for 30 years. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, runny nose or eyes, wheezing, sneezing and coughing can appear shortly after initial exposure.

Long-term health risks posed by flour dust include:

  • Occupational asthma (baker’s asthma)
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Obstructive lung diseases
  • Eye infection
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Febrile reactions
  • Grain fever
  • Lung fibrosis
  • Allergic alveolitis
  • Impairment of lung function
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for flour dust particles varies between country, state and province. Many businesses opt to simply follow the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists which recommends a threshold limit value of 0.5 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air.

Sadly, many bakery workers in the U.S. and Canada are exposed anywhere up to 200 times that PEL.

Cross Contamination

Complicating things further, food processing facilities also have to contend with the possibility of cross contamination. Traveling dusts that are not properly contained may carry particles that could contaminate the products produced. These particles could be allergens or microorganisms that have the potential to cause a pathogen outbreak.

Routine cleaning of equipment as well as the collecting and filtering of airborne dusts in the workplace help prevent cross contamination. Dust collection systems with high efficiency primary and secondary cartridge-style filters effectively capture these dusts before they can do harm.

To reduce hazardous flour dust and the likelihood of contamination, Diversitech offers a number of cartridge dust collectors for the food processing industrial setting.

Combustible Dusts

Not only harmful when inhaled, flour is also combustible and may cause fire or explosion if not properly contained.

But it’s not just flour that businesses in the food processing industry need to worry about. Almost all agricultural and food dusts including sugar, egg whites, powdered milk, alfalfa, herbs, hops, cornstarch, cereals, spices and additives are flammable and need to be properly captured to prevent a catastrophic event.

To protect workers from potential illness as well as the risk of death or injury due fire and explosion, businesses in the food processing sector need to properly contain agricultural dusts. Installing local exhaust ventilation systems not only prevents fire in the workplace but provides adequate protections for worker health.

Diversitech understands the needs of businesses in the food processing industry. Our line of wet dust collectors safely captures combustibles, reducing the risk of a catastrophic event and protecting worker health.

Recommended Products for the Food Processing Industry