To validate and optimize advanced nonthermal processing technologies that will ensure the safety and nutritional value of fresh and freshlike preserved foods for consumption by warfighters in combat scenarios. Research and development will be done in conjunction with industrial partners to insure a production base to meet the flexibility in military logistics demanded by the 21st Century battlespace.
The new pasteurization technologies will offer advantages to industry to meet consumer and commercial food service demands for convenient and easy-to-serve foods that are also high in nutritional value and safe from microbiological hazards.
This program is designed to overcome barriers to commercialization of novel nonthermal pasteurization technologies including pulsed electric field (PEF) and high pressure preservation (HPP). Both methods offer high potential for microbiological control while minimizing the chemical and physical changes in foods brought about by classic thermal preservation methods. A concerted effort to meet regulatory concerns will be coordinated with the Food & Drug Adminstration's National Center for Food Safety and Technology. Consortia of government, academia and industrial members will be established to optimize high pressure and pulsed electric field technologies to include combination preservation strategies to produce shelf-stable ration items for the military and extended shelflife refrigerated items for both military and civilian food service. Process validation and optimization will involve collection and analysis of data on process effects on pathogenic microorganisms, content of labile nutrients of special interest to the military and nutraceutical foods industry, and consumer acceptance with attention also to process economics, engineering and scale-up issues. The DoD has been recognized to play a lead role in implementation of advanced food processing technologies in the intergovernmental response to the President's Food Safety Initiative.</p>
New non-thermal processes, such as pulsed electric field (PEF) and high pressure (HP) preservation, have been applied to a variety of prototype food products. These processes are best categorized as pasteurization processes because they are not completely effective in reducing the activity of bacterial spores. Treated and properly packaged foods may have extended refrigerated shelf life or may be shelf stable if natural or added acids are present to control spore outgrowth. The primary criterion for a successful process is microbiological safety and stability; several PEF and HP prototypes produced by R&D contractors were evaluated after storage for one year at 4, 21 and 27 C. Non-thermal processes yield products with more 'fresh-like' flavor than those produced by traditional thermal processes due to fewer chemical and physical changes. The advantages can be seen in both chemical/nutritional analyses and sensory acceptability and profiles of both the freshly processed as well as and the stored prototype products. We used consumer acceptance panels to categorize PEF and HP products by comparing them with appropriate reference foods of the same kind, such as prepared from scratch, heat stabilized military rations and commercial items.</p>