What is condensation?
Condensation is the conversion of a vapour or gas to a liquid. It occurs when the surface temperature of a material is below the dew-point temperature of the air in contact with that material.
Condensation can occur in food establishments in several scenarios. For example:
- when warm humid air is drawn in from openings (such as doors, windows or ventilation systems) and condenses once it comes into contact with colder surfaces (this condensation can then form moisture on the walls, ceilings, overhead structures and equipment or as fog in the room)
- during a processing step such as cooking/cooling. The moisture that evaporates from the food or is released during the process increases the room's relative humidity creating warm moist air that can condense on surfaces with lower temperatures
- from the equipment used and the cleaning and sanitation activities
The condensate – the moisture that is produced – can drip onto:
- unprotected food - which can result in its contamination with pathogens
- packaging materials - which can cause some types of packaging such as carton boxes to weaken and deteriorate, exposing the packaged food to contamination
- food contact surfaces and the equipment - where it can support the growth of harmful bacteria
Sources of condensation and areas where condensation can occur should be considered during the hazard analysis. Control measures should be taken to prevent or control condensation and protect the food from contamination.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help food businesses comply with the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.
You may use other guidance developed by provincial governments, industry associations, international partners or academic bodies as long as they can achieve the outcomes identified in the regulations. Always ensure that the guidance you choose is relevant for your particular business, product or products, and market requirements.
This document provides information about condensation in establishments and outlines practices that may help you prevent the risk of contamination of a food by the presence of condensation.
Refer to the Tell me more! section for additional sources of information that may help you prevent condensation.
What's not included
While this document provides examples of sources of condensation, it is not exhaustive. The sources of condensation will be unique for each business and the preventive control measures needed will depend on the size and complexity of the food business and be unique for each business.
Roles and responsibilities
Food businesses are responsible for complying with the law. They demonstrate compliance by ensuring that the commodities and processes for which they are responsible meet regulatory requirements. If a written preventive control plan (PCP) is required, the food business develops a PCP with supporting documents, monitors and maintains evidence of its implementation, and verifies that all control measures are effective.
The CFIA verifies the compliance of a food business by conducting activities that include inspection, and surveillance. When non-compliance is identified, the CFIA takes appropriate compliance and enforcement actions.
Any areas where condensation occurs within the establishment should be assessed to determine if there is a risk of contamination to a food. In some cases, condensation may be present but it may be determined that there is no risk associated with it. In other cases, you may determine that there is a risk of contamination.
- Control measures chosen will depend on whether the condensation poses a food safety risk
Condensation that does not present a risk of contamination to a food
In many cases condensation does not present a risk of contamination to a food already packaged and protected or to a food that will receive a treatment at a subsequent step that will eliminate or reduce hazards to an acceptable level. For example, condensation:
- that forms during extreme weather conditions, on the wall or ceiling of a loading dock where there are canned food wrapped in boxes on palettes or where there is food packaged in boxes well protected by plastic film
- in the cooked food cooler which forms when warm food is placed inside but dissipates before moisture can form on the ceiling and drip onto the food
- that may occur (especially during summer) on well insulated water pipes and tubes installed close to the back walls of a processing area
- drops of water may fall on the floor but never near open food
- the condensation is not displaced by the employee, food or equipment flow to an area where it can present a risk of contamination
- that forms on the underside of a stainless steel vessel lids during the process of cooking
- that forms at the exit of cooling or freezing tunnels, where the cold air meets the warmer room temperature of the room, and can come in contact with packaged food
- that forms from refrigeration equipment and air conditioning equipment which is collected and discharged to a drain
Excessive condensation of this type should still be avoided anywhere food is prepared or stored and whenever the condensation can be displaced into areas where it can present a risk of contamination.
Condensation that presents a risk of contamination of a food
Condensation that cannot be avoided
In some cases, condensation created during the preparation of a food cannot be prevented but can be controlled. Control measures you can use to prevent contamination of a food with this condensation include:
- using drip pans
- the pans should be handled with care so that they do not become a source of contamination
- adding covers to the equipment
- protecting open food with covers or plastic sheets
- moving exposed food, that could become contaminated, into areas free of dripping condensation
- improving air flow and ventilation, including exhaust
- wiping or sponging surfaces to remove the condensation
- implementing enhanced sanitation procedures
- insulating cold surfaces
The following are examples of condensation that presents a risk of contamination and is unavoidable.
- that can fall from ceilings, drip pans or guards, over open kettle cooking areas and chill vats
- that can form in a cooler when the hot vapour from cooked food placed inside it condenses on the ceiling where it can drip on the cooling food
- in areas that require high humidity such as for the development of food bacterial cultures or the proofing of bakery products
- that forms on the exterior (entrance or exit) of a cooling or freezing tunnel and comes in contact with unprotected food:
- that forms on the outside of chutes, vats, pipes containing cold liquids, cold foods or ice
- that forms on overhead structures or the equipment, either as a result of spray from final rinsing of the equipment and walls during clean up, or the inherent temperature differences when cooling the room after cleaning and sanitizing
Condensation that can be avoided
In some cases, condensation can be reduced or avoided using simple measures. For example, by:
- insulating cold surfaces
- increasing air circulation within a room or the establishment
- reducing the flow of warm air into refrigerated areas
- relocating equipment
- redirecting the route followed by employees when food is prepared or the process flow for the food and equipment
If the control measures you have in place only reduce condensation, you may need additional control measures to prevent the contamination of a food.
The following are examples of condensation that presents a risk of contamination but is avoidable:
- condensation that can form on the ceiling or wall of loading docks and drip on the boxes of incoming ingredients or food waiting to be shipped
- from the ceiling of a cooler dripping on unprotected food or food packaged only in carton boxes.
- causing mold to form on walls, ceilings, window sills, and ledges due to poor or inadequate ventilation and sanitation
- from environmental control equipment, such as fans and evaporator condensation pans located above areas where there's open food
- from equipment left wet, after cleaning and sanitization where no-rinse sanitizers are not being used, that can drip onto other equipment or structures and present a risk of contamination
Tell me more! References and further reading
The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. The CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.
Other further reading
- USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Sanitation performance standards compliance guide. section 416.2(d) Ventilation, October 13, 1999, updated June 24, 2013
- Date modified: