\\$quot;Gases can be foods and we are food business\\$quot;

The first EIGA Workshop on Food Gases was held 23 June in Brussels. It addressed the impact of the new European food legislation and gave guidance how to produce and supply gases for the use in the food industry. 165 participants from 24 countries participated. Several participants came from non EIGA member companies.

The chairman of the workshop- Klaus Krinninger – stated that most participants came from Middle European nations but also five countries outside Europe were represented – Algeria, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and USA. The presenters were members of EIGA's Working Group-8 (Food Gases) and externals. Totally fifteen papers presented production, filling and distribution of food gases and gave advice on how to ensure the quality and traceability of food gases. Also experiences and expectations of the food producers were presented.

What does the law require?

The first speaker stated that according to the law - gases can be foods and we – the gas industry - are food business. The food business operator is primarily responsible for food safety. There are three types of food gas; additive – as packaging gases (MAP) gases and propellants, processing aid – as liquid nitrogen and carbon dioxide for freezing and ingredient as carbon dioxide for soft drinks.

The new legislation means that the gas industry have to meet many other requirements that apply to foods, like labelling, traceability, purity criteria, registration of premises and hygiene. Concerning hygiene procedures gas industry must consider the impurities and contamination that may possibly be in the gas or in the gas container or pipe. It means that the gas industry effectively have to have traceability through our own processes. Consider the suitability of materials in contact with gases – analyse the entire process and assess it for contamination.

Implementation of HACCP

Hygiene procedures based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) must be in place to ensure that the hygiene rules are followed. Another speaker described the implementation of HACCP in food gas production. He stated that gases are generally safe, but history shows that contamination can occur. As examples of potential hazards he showed photos of food waste in return containers for dry ice.

Microbes and gases – cause for concern or case for complacency?

Professor Kevin Kerr from Harrogate District Hospital in UK posted the question and showed several examples from scientific studies on factors that can affect the growth of pathogenic microbes under Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP). Important factors are for example type of product, packaging material, temperature, microbes present and pH value. His conclusion was that MAP offers considerable advantages for retailers and consumers – but the behaviour of food-borne pathogens under MAP conditions is affected by many variables and still incompletely understood. He underlined that the consumers have the responsibility and hoped that more and more consumers would look at the information on the food labels.

A view from two major CO2 consumers

Massimo Casella from Nestle Waters, representing 77 brands some of them global, described his company's applications. Nestle Waters usually takes the latest requirements developed around the world and challenges the internal CO2 standards, and when necessary update the internal processes. Much of the CO2 is produced internally and the CO2 delivered from external suppliers is certified and compliant to pre-agreed specifications. His future view is to together with the suppliers set up a good and consistent standard of quality to improve the customer acceptance.

Brian Salisbury from the Coca-Cola Company saw the future challenges being the enhanced testing and detection levels and the increasing consumer sensitivity concerning the linkage between ingredients and negative health consequences.

A view from EIGA members

Several experts from various EIGA member companies informed about production and distribution of food gases as well as dry ice as the rules are also applicable for dry ice. One speaker talked on bulk gas production and stressed that the production for other high purity applications does not automatically qualify the gas for food use. Production sites are \\$quot;Food premises\\$quot; and must be registered. Another paper informed about on-site generators and back-up systems for food applications. Systems that must be designed for the intended applications e.g. with the right food compatible oil, only ethylic alcohol as solvent and bacteriological filter. Furthermore it was emphasised that the customer requirements often widely exceeded the present legal requirements.

Finally the chairman of WG -8 could summarise: \\$quot;The meeting was seen by the audience as very informative, underlining that the gas industry is on the right track with its preparations to contribute to the future demands of safe developments of the constantly growing food industry.\\$quot;

The author:

Maris Sedlenieks is Corporate Communication Manager at Linde Gas and a member of the EIGA ad hoc group Communication.