Industrial gas company Afrox has seen success for a two-year project to certify Afrox’s Western Cape and Gauten gas production and filling facilities to the FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management Standard (FSMS).

The new certification – which incorporates ISO 22000, ISO 22003 and additional technical specifications and requirements – supports the company’s high-purity range of food-grade gas for use in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), accelerated ripening, fast chilling/freezing and other applications. 

Beginning in March 2020, the process then led to a successful audit in November 2021 which saw certification of Afrox’s Kuilsrivier air separation unit (ASU) and the Epping filling facility in the Western Cape Province. 

An audit of the Pretoria ASU and Germiston’s Afrox Gas Operations Centre (GOC) resulted in two more certifications. 

Commenting on the agreement, Pieter Moolman, Afrox, said, “The consequences of unsafe food can be serious. We are particularly proud that our Afrox ASUs and gas filling facilities in the Western Cape and Gauteng are the first Linde Group plants in the world to be certified to this high-level safety management standard.” 

The main gases used in Afrox’s MAP applications are nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide, either alone or utilised in combination. 

Afrox’s FoodFresh range of MAP gases aim to extend the shelf-life of fresh food and produce such as fruit, vegetables and meat, while eliminating the need for the use of artificial additives or freezing technologies. 

Moolman explained how specific gases can contribute to food freshness, saying, “Carbon dioxide inhibits microbial activity that would cause food to decay in air, while nitrogen, an inert gas, is used in packaging to shield fresh food from oxidation-based deterioration.” 

Oxygen is also added to some FoodFresh mixtures for fresh red meat, preserving the oxygenated form of myoglobin that gives meat its red colour. 

Another of the company’s gas solutions, Ripegas, uses a mixture of nitrogen and ethylene to accelerate the ripening of fruit. The mixture allows fruit to go from green to ripe in a few days. 

“Fresh produce is often harvested while green and stored in ripening rooms. Just before it needs to be shipped, an ethylene based Ripegas mixture is pumped into the room to accelerate the ripening process,” explained Moolman.

The gases used in Afrox’s solutions, including its Suremix CO2 and nitrogen range, are separated from atmospheric air in ASUs, while CO2 is taken from natural wells, captured from fermentation processes, or taken as a by-product of industrial processes such as ammonia production.

These gases are then mixed and packaged according to the requirements of the company’s food processing clients.

Praising all involved, Moolman said that certification would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the project’s task team.

”During this project we saw a true spirit collaboration amongst Afrox departments, in keeping with our vision for continuous improvement and adopting best practices.”