In the food industry, both too much or too little moisture can negatively impact the quality, consistency, and safety of food products and/or processes. For this reason, industry professionals utilize moisture analyzers to help them achieve and maintain the correct moisture and humidity levels for various food production and storage processes.
The following blog post discusses some of the reasons why moisture and humidity analysis are important for food production and storage.
1. Certain foods must meet legal requirements for moisture content.
The food industry is subject to strict regulations that provide guidelines on what can and cannot be approved for consumer distribution and consumption. Regarding food moisture content regulations, one of the most commonly regulated foods is cheese. The acceptable moisture content for a cheese depends on the type (e.g., fresh unripened, soft-ripened, or washed rind), the coagulation method, and/or the ripening method. For example, cheddar cheese can have a maximum moisture content of 39%. For cheese manufacturers, accurate measurement of moisture is essential to remaining in compliance with industry regulations.
2. Uneven moisture and/or humidity affect the weight, texture, and appearance of manufactured food.
Moisture and humidity have a significant effect on cooking and baking processes and the final cooked/baked product. Any fluctuation in moisture and humidity levels outside of the acceptable range can cause adverse reactions within the food materials that ultimately result in products of inconsistent or inadequate quality. For example, bread may not rise properly, while candies may not crystallize or set properly. By utilizing moisture analyzers, food manufacturers can ensure they achieve and maintain the proper moisture and humidity levels for cooking and baking.
3. Some foods are classified and sold based on their moisture content.
Some foods are classified and sold based on the amount of moisture they contain. For example, milk can be categorized into liquid to dry (i.e., powdered) milk products. Liquid milk contains between 85–90% moisture, while dry milk contains ?5% moisture. Evaporated milk falls in between at about 53% moisture content.
4. Appropriate and consistent moisture levels help improve the shelf life of food products.
Whether food products are stored in a warehouse, a store, or a residence, achieving and maintaining the right moisture levels helps improve shelf life. Too much moisture can cause mold growth, resulting in shorter shelf life and, potentially, a greater risk of product recalls. Too little moisture can lead to food drying out and becoming stale and unpalatable. Some of the ways of extending the shelf life of food products include utilizing moisture analyzers to attain the proper moisture and humidity levels for storage and using food packaging that helps protect the food from moisture or helps the food retain moisture.
5. Moisture and humidity can lead to machine corrosion and blockages.
Excess moisture and humidity levels can lead to corrosion in food production equipment, which, in turn, leads to production delays and loss of profits. Moisture analyzers help industry professionals identify if moisture levels in the work area are within the acceptable range or whether they need to be adjusted. Some of the methods moisture analyzers use to determine moisture levels include:
- Thermogravimetric Analysis: halogen or infrared drying, microwave drying, oven drying,
- Chemical Analysis: calcium carbide testing, Karl Fischer titration
- Spectroscopic Analysis: infrared spectroscopy, microwave spectroscopy, proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
- Other: density determination, gas chromatography, refractometry
MAC Instruments (a division of Machine Applications Corporation) is a premier manufacturer of industrial moisture measurement products for high-temperature applications. One of our core product offerings for the food industry is our MAC 116 moisture analyzer.
MAC 116 is generally used in cooking processes to control the flow of steam. It allows for better control over moisture levels, allowing industry professionals to achieve and maintain optimal levels for minimum cooking time and maximum product yield. Some of the key benefits of this moisture analyzer include:
- Excellent durability. The NEMA 4X/IP66 waterproof design allows it to withstand harsh cleaning processes.
- Sanitary design. MAC 116 features a stainless steel enclosure and probe made with continuous welds, making it suitable for sanitary installation applications.
- Easy cleaning requirements. This moisture analyzer accommodates clean-in-place (CIP) processes, making it quick and easy to clean.
- Low shock hazard. MAC 116 uses DC power, which eliminates the risk of shock in wet environments.
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