Kinder, Gentler Food Processing

Dec. 19, 2016

Food Technology magazine

V. M. Balasubramaniam, Ahmed E. Yousef, Jason Wan, and Ash Husain | December 2016, Volume 70, No.12

As consumers demand more minimally processed foods, new nonthermal technologies, including high pressure processing, are promoting the growth of extended shelf life foods.
Food is processed to meet targeted sensory attributes and minimum shelf life and to eliminate the risk of disease transmission by the processed product. Processors traditionally used heat to meet these goals. Heat can reliably inactivate spoilage and pathogenic organisms and enzymes that contribute to quality deterioration. Contrary to these benefits, excessive thermal processing negatively impacts the nutritional and sensorial qualities of food. Alternatives to heat have been implemented to overcome these drawbacks, but these newer processes lag in effectiveness against some spoilage and pathogenic agents, particularly bacterial spores, in comparison to heat. In recent decades, thermal and nonthermal treatments are combined to produce food that meets the processing goals just described. The success of this approach is well-exemplified by the emergence of the “extended shelf life (ESL) food” category. In this article, we will discuss processes that make ESL products possible and address ways to make these foods safe through the use of selected emerging processing technologies, particularly high pressure. To simplify this discussion, initially we will consider the thermal approach to processing ESL food. Additionally, special attention will be given to high-moisture low-acid foods. The following is a brief account of technologies that border ESL processes—i.e., pasteurization and sterilization. Click here for the full article.