Where are VOCs found in the food and Beverage industry and why do we need to monitor them
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a wide range of naturally and synthetically occurring chemicals. They are described as volatile because they evaporate in conditions found in our everyday lives, releasing molecules into the atmosphere. VOCs are also extremely useful as they form the building blocks of many synthetic materials (plastics, rubbers, glues, paints etc.). VOCs also play a key part in pharmaceutical manufacturing and are a great fuel for transport and heating; one area has recently seen large advances—the analysis of VOCs in food.
There are a wide variety of VOCs found in the food and beverage industry, they can use within the process of the product; or they can be from residues and emission which are a result from fermentation, cooking, clean-up, disinfection, and other steps in food production.
Compounds of concern range from alcohols and aldehydes produced in fermentation (bakeries, breweries, wineries) to fats, oils, and greases emitted from cooking operations, and chlorinated compounds produced in disinfection such as that found in pre-washed salads. Contaminant concentrations are generally low, ranging from less than 100 ppm to a few 1000 ppm.
Three types of problem are associated with VOC in food and beverage production: toxicity, odours, and air pollution which is associated with photoreactive compounds.
Toxicity is generally not a problem in the food processing industry; that is, air emissions are generally non-toxic, even in indoor environments.
Odours are significant problems and include a wide range of compounds. Unfortunately, odours are often associated with very low contaminant concentrations (ppb, in the case of mercaptans).
Photoreactive compound emissions, such as alcohols, are regulated by local, state, and Federal agencies.