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Food & beverage stockpiles pose humidity risk

The ongoing impact of the pandemic on the food and beverage sector has left chilled and cold storage areas dangerously over capacity and vulnerable to damage caused by uncontrolled humidity levels, according to a moisture control specialist.

Widespread disruption to the hospitality and events industry has resulted in unprecedented quantities of food and beverage goods being kept in chilled or cold storage to maintain its quality. Yet this build-up of stock could result in expensive spoilage risks without effective moisture control strategies in place, says Ryan Stanley, moisture control specialist at Aggreko Northern Europe.

He explained: “Though many industries are experiencing disruption due to COVID-19, the food and beverage sector is most acutely feeling the effect of stay-at-home orders. With pubs and restaurants closing their doors and the events industry on indefinite hiatus, increasing amounts of stock is going back into chilled and cold storage, and understandably so.

“However, if humidity and air flow is not carefully monitored within at or over-capacity storage areas, products may be more likely to spoil. While this is always a concern, increasing stock levels can further affect humidity levels, leaving entire stores at risk. When combined with the greater financial impact larger quantities of damaged, stockpiled goods can have on warehouses and manufacturers, it is clear moisture control strategies are required to ward off prohibitively expensive losses.”

Alongside spoiled perishable goods, another consequence of poorly maintained chilled and cold storage humidity levels is damaged packaging. As food packaging is often hydroscopic, it will absorb moisture from the air, which can lead to impairment and non-acceptance from supermarkets and retailers.

According to Ryan, the best way to alleviate such risks during this unprecedented time is the temporary hire of dehumidification equipment. Used together with post-cooling techniques and additional chillers, dehumidifiers can remove excess moisture from the air in cold and chilled storage, reducing risks of spoilage, damage and non-acceptance.

He concludes: “Currently, many manufacturers and warehouses are caught between two stools, needing to maintain optimum storage conditions during a period of intense disruption, but knowing this will not be a permanent state of affairs. Consequently, purchasing permanent installations that will not be required later on may financially hamstring companies whose budgets have already been slashed by the pandemic.

“Temporary problems do not require permanent solutions, and in a business landscape where capex spending is likely to be further reduced post-pandemic, companies should explore all options available to avoid unnecessary expense.”

16 February 2021

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