The unsuspecting environmental dangers of food substances

By Bill Atkinson, Chief Scientific Adviser

Is your business aware of the potential damage food substances can cause in particular circumstances? Bill Atkinson, Chief Scientific Adviser, discusses how seemingly harmless ingredients such as milk, orange juice, and even flour can be incredibly dangerous and damaging when exposed or spilled.

Businesses operating within the food industry, especially when transporting and handling food on a commercial scale, must ensure that they understand the risks and dangers that can occur if something goes wrong, and put steps in place to take all necessary precautions to avoid an incident occurring.

When food substances are unwantedly exposed to the environment; whether it be an orange juice tanker spill during transportation, or pudding mix powder being present in the air in a factory and risking an explosion, it can be extremely damaging, and potentially dangerous to premises, wildlife, and the surrounding environment. It can pose a threat to the health and safety of all involved, including employees and even nearby residents.

When liquid food spills such as milk, beer, and orange juice occur outside and get into nearby watercourses, natural bacteria that is present in the water, breaks down the soluble foodstuff. This process can use up dissolved oxygen in the water quicker than it can be replaced, resulting in severe oxygen depletion in the water, quickly killing aquatic life.

One particularly troublesome food to clean up once spilled is milk. When milk is spilled within the environment, and it enters a watercourse, due to the high content of protein and fat, the milk sinks, separates and disperses. This makes cleaning up milk pollution extremely difficult as the milk curdles into large masses, and due to the high-fat content causes physical issues with drainage systems.

Other unsuspecting foods that can be especially dangerous when exposed to the environment are powdered foods, such as flour, sugar, and pudding mix. As these substances are made up almost entirely of carbohydrates, they can become flammable when exposed to the air and a spark.

When stored tightly in bags, the molecules are packed too tightly to provide the glucose with the oxygen it needs to burn. However, when these particles are exposed to the air and have plenty of oxygen surrounding them, if exposed to ignition such as faulty electricals, can ignite. It is therefore essential for all businesses operating within an environment where food dust particles are present in the air to ensure they are adhering to the correct Dangerous Substance and Explosive Atmosphere Regulation (DSEAR) 2002.

A food-related accident can be detrimental to businesses; substantial fines, danger to the safety of those involved, legal fees, and costs to restore the environment to its original state can be exceptionally damaging to a company.

Businesses need to ensure they have the correct plans in place so that they are fully prepared should an unexpected incident occur. Adler and Allan have the knowledge and expertise to help you reduce the risk to the environment and your business.

Large industrial bakery