food-grade nitrogen

Food Grade Nitrogen Generators & Supply – Specifications/Applications

Gaseous nitrogen has unique physical and chemical properties that allow it to play a critical role in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. Nitrogen gas is essentially inert and can be used to remove oxygen and moisture from food processes thus preventing easy spoilage/oxidative damage and prolonging shelf life.

Having established the importance of nitrogen in the food manufacturing processes manufacturers must comply with strict compressed air system standards to deliver high-quality food-grade nitrogen to their associated processes.

This article will discuss the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and International Standards Organization (ISO) standards for food-grade nitrogen and the various ways this compound can be safely used in food processing.

What Is Food-Grade Nitrogen?

Food-grade nitrogen is simply an oxygen-poor/nitrogen-enriched air mix used in food preparation to preserve freshness and prolong shelf life. While nitrogen in food packaging and processing can be supplied to food manufacturers in cylinders, the most cost-effective method of sourcing the gas is by the use of mobile nitrogen generation units kept on-site.

Criteria for Food-Grade Nitrogen

The ideal concentration of nitrogen to be used for food preservation activities is pegged at 99.0% or greater. Associated oxygen concentration should be less than 1% while carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide concentrations in the air mixture should be under 10ppm and 300ppm respectively. Also, moisture concentrations should be under 55.8ppm and the gaseous mixture should be odorless.

FDA Standard for Nitrogen Used in Food

The Food and Drug Administration gives strict guidelines for the use of food-grade nitrogen including its physical and chemical description, as well as nitrogen purity and method of application. The FDA affirms that the safe nature of food-grade nitrogen provided the following conditions are met:

  • Nitrogen is used as a propellant, aerating agent and a gas
  • The concentration of nitrogen used in food preservation does not exceed recent good manufacturing practices

ISO Standards for Food-Grade Nitrogen

The ISO standards for food-grade nitrogen are outlined under ISO/TS 220022-1:2009 which emphasizes requirements for construction and use of equipment for the synthesis of nitrogen used in food preservation. Aspects covered by ISO guidelines for nitrogen generation, processing, blanketing, purging, and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).

nitrogen gas - food-grade

Applications of Food-Grade Nitrogen

The key applications of food-grade nitrogen are listed below:

  • Modified atmosphere packaging
  • Nitrogen-infused drinks (nitrogen-infused coffee and beer)

Modified Atmosphere Packaging

Modified atmosphere packaging refers to special packaging techniques that allow food to retain freshness for a longer period. MAP uses either passive or active methods to control the interior environment for preserved food.

Passive MAP techniques use special wrapping materials/ films to separate the stored food from external oxidative conditions that cause rapid food spoilage. The sealing film regulates the temperature, humidity, and gas diffusion rates around packaged foods keeping them fresh for longer.

Active MAP involves the circulation of a carefully composed gas mix within packaged foods. Usually, the major constituent is nitrogen gas with minimal amounts of oxygen. This air gas mixture slows oxidative processes resulting in prolonged shelf life.

Nitrogen-Infused Drinks

The use of nitrogen in beverage preparation has gained widespread popularity due to its effect on flavor and texture. Nitrogen can be integrated into brewing processes for coffee, beer, and other drinks.

Nitrogen-Infused Coffee

Freshly brewed coffee infused with pure nitrogen gas offers a unique and novel perspective to a favorite drink of millions of people worldwide. Applying pressurized nitrogen to cold-brewed coffee grounds alters the taste and texture of the final brew. When delivered through a pressurized nozzle, the upper part of the coffee cup forms a frothy layer with a beer-like appearance in which some connoisseurs claim tastes better.

Nitrogen-Infused Beer

Just like with coffee, beer brewers are starting to experiment with nitrogen. Instead of using carbon dioxide for carbonation, nitrogen can be used to achieve a frothier beer with smoother flavors and consistency.

Benefits of Food-Grade Nitrogen Generators

The larger the size of a food manufacturing process, the higher its demand for food-grade nitrogen. While small scale operations can use food-grade nitrogen transported and stored in tanks and cylinders, this approach is not very efficient in larger food processing plants.

For medium to large scale food processing operations, the use of on-site nitrogen generators to synthesize the required amounts of the gas is highly recommended. Among the major benefits of using a food-grade nitrogen generator are:

  • Lower overall operating costs when compared to nitrogen cylinder rentals
  • Rapid onsite generation of required amounts of gaseous nitrogen with minimal waste
  • Elimination of hazards associated with nitrogen cylinder storage while saving vital floor space
  • Production of high-quality gas in an efficient manner

NiGen Has On-Site Nitrogen Generators for Your Production Chain

At NiGen, we are dedicated to providing the best quality nitrogen generators for rent or purchase to clients across a broad range of industries including food and beverage manufacture. We offer sturdy cost-effective food-grade nitrogen generators guaranteed to provide high purity nitrogen required in your food processing plants.

Contact the NiGen team today for more information about our trusted nitrogen generation solutions.