You may have heard in the news about a number of food plants shutting down operations due to fears of spreading the COVID-19 virus between employees in close quarters. In the U.S. today, there are approximately 32,000 food processing facilities employing 1.6 million workers. As well as leaving many people without jobs, shutting down large food production facilities has far-reaching implications because it interrupts the food supply chain. What can food manufacturers do to keep their plants running?
How Does Air Filtration Help?
Because COVID-19 is a communicable disease spread primarily through infected respiratory droplets, filtering these droplets out of the air has the potential to curb infection rates where social distancing measures are not always possible.
In a recent video interview, Patrick Lally, Food and Beverage Segment Manager for Camfil USA, explains a few steps food manufacturers can take to protect their employees.
What Should Food and Beverage Manufacturers be Considering When Selecting an Air Filter?
“It’s not like healthcare, for example, where you have nationally recognized recommendations and guidelines,” says Lally. “Because of the diverse array of processes, products, and facility layouts in food plants, air filtration needs generally depend on the specifics of the plant.”
With the spread of COVID-19 as an added factor in air filtration needs, Lally recommends air filters with a rating of at least MERV-15A, MERV-16A or a HEPA filter where appropriate, if possible. The smaller respiratory droplets that could potentially spread COVID-19 range in size from 0.5 microns up to 15 microns with the peak distribution size around 2.5 micron. An air filter rated MERV-15A or higher “will help you capture roughly 95% to 100% of the particles in that size range.”
What is a MERV-A Rating?
Filter manufacturers who wish to publicize the effectiveness of their filters by referring to the MERV value are required to test their filters according to the full test standard known as ASHRAE 52.2. MERV, or minimum efficiency reporting value, is a scale to select filters based on their ability to capture particles. This is referred to in the filtration industry as efficiency.
Some manufacturers rely on an electrostatic charge to increase the efficiency of filters. As this charge dissipates over time, so does the filter’s efficiency. The ASHRAE 52.2 test standard includes an Appendix J to the standard which details a procedure to test the filters without the benefit of an electrostatic charge. The efficiency without this charge is referred to as a filter’s MERV-A value.
“A good way to select the proper filter is to remember that ‘A’ stands for ‘actual’ and a food plant should always select filters based on their MERV-A value, not simply their MERV. It may seem like a small difference, but it’s not,’” says Mr. Lally.
Three Expert Tips for Improving Your Air Filtration Measures
- Make sure your current and future filters have a MERV-A rating on their labels.
- Remember that portable air filtration units are a good option for areas where people congregate, such as locker rooms and cafeterias.
- As recommended by the CDC, consult an HVAC or filtration expert with food plant experience when making any airflow changes.
About Camfil Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment.
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