Advantages of innovative techniques
The success of new technologies for food processing is highly dependent on consumer response to the new products. Emerging technologies must be accompanied by transparent information from the food industry to promote trust and acceptance in consumers. Including consumers in the development of the product is also a key factor for success in the highly competitive food sector and helps to demonstrate that innovative technologies are designed to benefit them as well as the food industry.
A lot of research has been focussed on developing alternative processes for heat treatments that preserve food and extend its shelf life effectively whilst maintaining freshness and nutrient levels. The variables that can be applied in the settings of each individual technology, plus the variety of foods that can be treated lead to a wide range of outcomes still to be discovered.
The main reason for innovation in food processing, as we said in Step 3.2, is to develop milder processes which enhance safety and quality in the final product. This Week we have discussed High Pressure Processing (HPP) and Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) treatments for liquids, as well as irradiation for solids and surfaces. There are additional technologies we haven’t covered, such as infrared and ohmic heating. If you’d like to find out a little more about these, there is a brief summary available at the end of the Step under ‘Downloads’.
The technologies we have discussed also have the potential to be used to change the properties of proteins and other components in the food matrix. For example, HPP can produce gelling of certain proteins and high pressure is applied for high pressure homogenization. A homogeniser operating at very high pressure which allows the reduction of the fat content in mayonnaise without compromising its stability. This also helps to reduce the input of stabilisers and emulsifiers since in a conventional homogeniser a low-fat mayonnaise needs additives to help maintain its structure. PEF can also be used to amend the structure of food. Potatoes are made easier to cut, strawberries keep their form, colour and taste better when dried, and extraction of components from complex foods can be made easier.
As you can see, the potential effects of these emerging technologies are very broad although they currently focus on a few main areas, and the outcomes for food products of the future are extensive.
What changes would you like to see in the food industry? Do you have some ideas about how processes might be adapted to make them more effective? Or suggestions for new ones?
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