SOUTH AFRICA – African Oxygen (Pty) Limited (Afrox), sub-Saharan Africa’s market leader in gases and welding products, has culminated a two-year project to certify its Western Cape and Gauteng gas production and filling facilities to meet the FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management Standard (FSMS).
The Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) is the comprehensive certification scheme for food safety management that incorporates the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 22000, ISO 22003 and additional sector specific technical specifications and requirements.
Afrox produces high-purity range of food-grade gases for use in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), accelerated ripening, fast chilling/freezing and other food related processing applications.
This Afrox certification project began in March 2020, when the world was just entering the anxious and unprecedented COVID-19 period.
Subsequent to a successful audit on 29 November 2021, Afrox’s Kuilsrivier Air Separation Units (ASU) and the Epping filling facility in the Western Cape Province were certified.
This was followed in December 2021 by an audit of the Pretoria ASU and the Afrox Gas Operations Centre (GOC) in Germiston, which ended in the additional certification of these two facilities in January 2022. These four facilities supply near 90% of Afrox’s national demand of food-grade gases.
While Afrox food-grade gases all conform to global food grade regulations and standards, FSSC 22000 certification of the production sites adds another widely recognized international standard for the food industry.
Pointing out the serious nature of unsafe food, Pieter Moolman, Product Manager Packaged Special Gases noted that the certification would help them to identify and control all food safety hazards.
As such, consumers and global food supply chain stakeholders will be reassured that all food packaged or processed using Afrox-produced gases complies to the highest safety and quality standards.
“We are particularly proud that our Afrox ASUs and gas filling facilities in the Western Cape and Gauteng are the first Linde Group plants in the world to be certified to this high-level safety management standard,” Moolman added.
The main Afrox gases used in the food industry are nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are all widely used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging applications, either alone or in combination with each other.
Afrox’s FoodFresh range of MAP gases are used with modern packaging materials to extend the shelf-life of fresh foods, while eliminating the need for using artificial additives or freezing technologies. They enable fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables and meat to be sold to consumers as if they came directly from the food producer.
Afrox’s range of gases
FoodFresh gas mixtures slow down food decay mechanisms.
“Carbon dioxide, for example, inhibits microbial activity that would cause food to decay in air, while nitrogen, an inert gas, is used in packaging to shield fresh food from oxidation-based deterioration, but oxygen is also added to some FoodFresh gas mixtures, particularly for fresh red meat where it preserves the oxygenated form of myoglobin that gives meat its fresh red colour,” Moolman explains.
Ripegas, a mixture of nitrogen and ethylene, is an Afrox’s food-grade gas solution used to accelerate the ripening of fruit.
A range of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen gases called Suremix for dispensing sodas, draught beers, lagers and wines is another off-the-shelf Afrox gas mixture that conforms to all major drink manufacturers’ specifications.
Afrox’s food grade gases manufactured to the FSSC 22000 management standard can also be supplied for fast chilling and freezing of foods or juices using liquid nitrogen (LIN) or liquid carbon dioxide (LIC).
Describing where these gases come from, Moolman says that Afrox nitrogen and oxygen is separated from atmospheric air in Afrox’s ASUs while carbon dioxide can be taken from natural wells, captured off fermentation processes; or from the by-products of industrial processes such as ammonia production.
These individual gases are then mixed and packaged at one of Afrox’s regional gas filling facilities to the specifications of its food processing clients, according to Engineering News.
Moolman attributed the success of the two certification projects to the commitment and dedication of the projects’ task team spearheaded by Chairman Patrick Mohapi and his Deputy, Hamilton Dlungele.