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Humidity levels for spice storage


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#1 The Food Scientist

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 12:49 PM

Hi everyone I have a question to everyone working in the spice & seasoning industry.

 

We all know spices tend to clump after a while and this is due to absorption of moisture from the surroundings. Our corrective action is to monitor humidity by checking the humidity meters. My question is what would the limits be? When you monitor something you need to establish limits,(this isn't a CCP) does anyone have any knowledge of how would the humidity levels not be above and below how much? Also our suppliers of the material don't have this on their specification sheets.  I have been trying to search the internet with no luck. Any help would be appreciated! 


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#2 Hank Major

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:05 PM

Maybe it's not due to absorption of moisture in the surrounding air?



#3 The Food Scientist

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:19 PM

I thought of it but after research and knowledge it is mainly due to humidity, especially since we're in a humid, hot Florida.


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#4 Hank Major

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:32 PM

The reason I question the humidity hypothesis is because I can't understand why paprika clumps more quickly than, say, ground cumin.  And how does adding a very small amount of SiO2 prevent clumping?  Maybe the spice itself is releasing resins or oils, and gluing itself together?  Maybe the SiO2 prevents clumping by absorbing these exudates?



#5 The Food Scientist

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:37 PM

I believe it differs from spice to spice depending on the particle size/surface area and amount of essential oils present just as you mentioned it releases oils over time.


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#6 Hank Major

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 08:07 PM

The Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings says spices should be stored at 50° to 60° F and 55% to 65% relative humidity.  If paprika (for instance) is kept too dry, it will lose its ASTA color faster.  Swings in temperature and humidity will accelerate the clumping. 

 

All together, this caking issue is too tricky to be dealt with by calling humidity monitoring a Corrective Action.  It is not preventative either, not a Preventive Control and not a Preventive Action.  Caking can be forestalled by mechanical means, such as having the warehouse guys restack the bags roughly.   A better solution is to use a JIT supplier for the raw materials that you know to clump, and to add 1% to 2% SiO2 to your finished product.



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