Up and Coming Food Processing Technologies to Keep Your Eye On

Considering the growing level of industrialization in food production and the globalization of food supply and trade, it’s no surprise that food safety has been a topic of increasing importance. Recent years have garnered a host of new and improved food processing technologies that stand to significantly improve food safety, as well as increase shelf life and reduce environmental impacts. Here are the main technologies that have people excited.

High Pressure or High Hydrostatic Pressure Food Processing

High pressure processing, also known as high hydrostatic pressure processing or ultra high pressure processing, is the application of up to 87,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to cook food products. It can be done with or without heat and has the effect of rendering microbes inactive as well as altering certain food attributes to achieve the desired quality.

This technology helps retain the quality of the food as well as maintaining natural freshness and extending the microbiological shelf life. Because high pressure processing causes minimal changes in the freshness of the food, it is preferably to thermal technologies.

An additional advantage is that this method of processing can be done at ambient or refrigerated temperatures, thereby eliminating funky flavors that can arise as a result of thermal processing.  High pressure processing is, therefore, particularly useful for heat-sensitive products.

However, like any technology, high pressure processing can’t be used universally. It does not extend the shelf life of foods such as vegetables or milk which are low in acidity, although it does kill food borne pathogens such as listeria or salmonella, which such foods can harbor. High pressure processing is similarly poorly suited for foods like strawberries or marshmallows which have internal air-pockets and are easily crushed, as well as dry solids which don’t have enough moisture to make high pressure processing effective for microbial destruction.

Microwave Heating as a Food Processing Technology

Although microwave technology has been around for a long time, there have been numerous advances in recent years which make this an important food processing technology to utilize.  Microwave heating has many well-known applications in food processing already – tempering frozen foods for further processing, pre-cooking meats like bacon for institutional use, and drying of pasta products.  Compared to conventional methods, microwave heating significantly reduces processing time, as well as improving food quality and reducing environmental impacts. Thanks to the fact that microwaves are transparent to plastic, this technology is also put to use to process pre-packaged food products.

Ultraviolet Food Processing Technology

Ultraviolet food processing is perhaps the method that has garnered the most attention recently in terms of emerging technologies. Ultraviolet light is particularly effective against air-borne pathogens and is used to control microbial hazards through the treatment of air, non-food, food contact surfaces, processing water, ingredients, raw, and finished products.

Meat processing facilities in particular can benefit from installing an ultraviolet system in their establishments, although studies still need to be run to determine cost-saving measures for energy and water processing, as well as the assurance of enhanced food safety utilizing the method.

There are several other emerging food processing technologies that are worthy of consideration, but these are the three big ones that are on everyone’s mind right now. As our global market continues to expand, we can expect more discussion and enhanced safety regulations to be put in place.

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