Food and beverage
29th Sep 2022

5 benefits of utility filtration in dairy processing

From farm to supermarket shelf, dairy manufacturers have a lot of processes and equipment to manage.

The weight of rising production costs and customer expectations sits on their shoulders, too. All that cheese, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, butter, cream, baby formula, and more must be safe to eat, high-quality, and reasonably priced.

Following the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles can help to reduce the risk of product contamination by making processes more controlled and final products more consistent.

Manufacturers often underestimate the importance of utilities filtration in dairy processing – water, gas, and steam. But it can have a huge impact on product quality, so should be included in HACCP plans.

Checking filters at each control point ensures they’re working efficiently. That way, you can optimise your processes, protect your people, and make excellent products.

How are utilities filtered in dairy processing?

Utilities all contact the final product, whether that’s cow’s milk, milk alternatives, puddings, yoghurts etc., during production.

Dairy filters remove contaminants to ensure process utilities are suitable for use in production.

They’re used at almost every production stage. For example:

  • Adding ingredients
  • Storing produce
  • Sterilising packaging
  • Filling packaging

Gas filters

Gas that contacts produce in storage tanks, for example, must be filtered so it’s sterile. This stops microbial contamination and prevents the product from spoiling prematurely. Manufacturers use sterile gas to:

  • Add pressure to filling lines before injecting product into pots
  • Add a protective layer of gas, e.g., nitrogen, to the space between the product and the lid to protect against oxidisation or spoiling
  • Maintain differential pressure inside storage tanks to prevent them from collapsing
  • Vent storage tanks
  • Remove excess product if overfilled
  • Aerate products like mousses
  • Dry containers after washing or before filling

Gas filters must be:

  • Able to handle pressure drops to provide the required volumetric flowrate with the smallest footprint
  • Robust enough to deal with high levels of condensate from sterilisation of filling machines
  • Validated to ensure they fully remove bacteriophage

Steam filters

Steam filters clean the steam in pressurised systems before it touches any produce or equipment. It must meet the culinary grade standard 3A 609-03 to be safe for use.

Manufacturers use steam to:

  • Sanitise equipment like tanks and filler heads
  • Increase the shelf life of products like UHT milk
  • Control the temperature and consistency of a product
  • Open packaging before filling
  • Blanch or peel fruits and vegetables

If you don't filter steam properly or use the incorrect filter, you could suffer from particulate contamination in steam supply lines, discolouration of process equipment, and restricted flowrates. This can lead to excess condensate and difficulty reaching the correct sterilisation temperatures.

Water filters

As the quality of water can vary, water filters help dairy manufacturers maintain water quality and eliminate contaminants before they use it:

  • As an ingredient
  • To clean equipment like storage tanks and pipes
  • In cooling systems
  • In boilers to make steam

Contaminants like rust or dirt will also reduce the service life of equipment, so filtering water can keep production running smoothly for longer.

Dead-end filters help water treatment plants to produce distilled water efficiently and to specification. Guard filters are useful when you use mains water as they protect against rare instances of cryptosporidium contamination.

Is filtration management on your food and drink production lines good enough? Learn how to make it better in our guide.

5 benefits of filtration in dairy processing

1. Limit contamination

Some dairy products have live cultures, so there’s a risk of microflora and phages destroying the lactic acid needed. This slows fermentation and compromises the final product. Using gas filters can help to prevent these from contaminating produce and reducing yield.

2. Improve shelf-life

The production environment, equipment, and packaging must be sterile. The better the sterilisation processes are, the better quality the product will be and the longer it will last for the customer. Steam filters sterilise steam before you use it to clean equipment and pipework or make aseptic packaging.

3. Support compliance with food safety standards

If food is unsafe, you'll have to recall it and tell consumers. This wastes time and money, and results in bad press. Having the highest-quality utilities limits this risk and gives you a great foundation for production that meets food hygiene standards. For example, filters that produce culinary-grade steam which you can use to clean equipment like pipework and storage tanks.

4. Optimise performance

You've got to meet production requirements and make high-quality products. You also need to make sure operations are financially viable. Operating without unnecessary downtime or product loss is important. Filters optimised for each critical control point will result in minimal changeouts and larger throughputs without compromising filtration capability.

5. Make food taste better and increase customer loyalty

Filters reduce the risk of product recalls because of contamination. With food that's fresh, safe, and delicious, customers will keep buying your products and trust your brand. They’ll get a better experience because dairy production is consistent, and you can enjoy a loyal customer base.

Ensure utility filters are working hard at every critical control point

It’s always worth evaluating production processes to find where you can improve them. The benefits of utilities filtration in dairy processing speak for themselves – producers will increase production, improve quality, reduce the risk of contamination and product recalls, and deliver a better product to customers.

Partner with a dairy utility filtration specialist that can recommend how to optimise your current filter performance, pipework, and condensate trap layout. They can offer bespoke solutions, increase filter lifetime, reduce expenditure, and futureproof your process.

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