The following article appeared in Supermarket & Retailer May 2013:
The ongoing frustration for store owners of cold-room or freezer doors left open does not only impact on electricity consumption, but it also has a direct impact on the quality of fresh produce and meat products. “Against common misconception and the laws of physics we are all familiar with, warm air entering a cold room through an open door does not rise. Instead it remains nearer the floor ‘bouncing off’ against the belt of cold air flowing from the evporator fans above, creates latent heat and deposits condensation on the walls, ceiling and stored products,” says Raymond Byrne, owner of Polar Africa.
During the night, the evaporator fans conversely dry out the air and remove most of its humidity. “Storage conditions are therefore rarely ideal. Normal refrigeration systems are not able to address these imbalances, nor to decontaminate the internal atmosphere,” says Byrne.
Polar Africa therefore introduced a humidity and bacteria control filter that is simply mounted onto the ceiling of a cold room with magnets and can also be used in display-cabinets. The filters contain Sorbite – the only mineral that is able to absorb and desorb and it is only found in the Mojave Desert in Nevada, USA. “During the day, the mineral absorbs excess moisture and when the air becomes too dry (usually overnight), the Sorbite releases moisture back into the air and creates consistent storage conditions all throughout the day,” he says.
Fresh produce constantly releases ethylene gas, which ripens the product. In a cold room environment the gas accumulates, settles on the produce stored and accelerates its ripening process. “In this environment, the ethylene gas becomes a food spoilage gas. The filters are also able to absorb these along with airborne bacteria, moulds and yeasts. This helps to maximise the shelf life of perishable products,” says Byrne.
The filters need to be exchanged monthly by Polar Africa and they have been around in the US for almost 30 years. “They are an essential component in USA and UK HACCP and ISO programmes,” he continues. Supermarkets here started to incorporate the filters on a regional basis. The extended shelf-life of fresh produce provides retailers with more flexibility in fresh produce management and the ability to take maximum advantage of bulk buying.
“We have fitted a number of Pretoria wholesale and retail butcheries with our filters and have achieved a meat-loss reduction of between 40-59%!” emphasises Byrne.