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Enhancing Food Safety and Quality by Using Engineering Tools to Validate and Characterize Non-thermal and Thermal Processing


The overall goal of this project is to use engineering tools to increase economic values of foods processed with traditional and advanced technologies. Towards this goal, the following objectives are proposed: <OL> <LI> Determine optimal processing parameters (flow rate, time, temperature, pressure, UV light intensity, etc), depending on the technology, that will ensure the safety of the product while enhancing its nutritional value. <LI> Estimate the model parameters that describe the inactivation and/or growth of pathogens, depending on the technology (based on the data collected on obj 1), and statistically evaluate them. <LI> Validate process and model predictions (from obj 2) with additional experiments, to scale-up the process. <LI> Develop and applied existing statistical techniques to validate predicted parameters and model predictions. <LI> Deliver science-based knowledge generated in objectives 1-4 to industry via workshops, new online resources website, presentation, and/or directly to interested parties. </ol><P>Expected outputs include: <LI> Create new fundamental knowledge of alternative processing and model parameters useful for costs estimation and scale up process. <LI>Publish results in scientific journals and present at national and/or international conferences. <LI>Development of databases, techniques, and online tools that will be delivered directly to interested parties via existing and new workshops.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: With increasing food commodities prices, which have already doubled in some places around the world and continue to increase, food engineers and technologists face a challenging picture. For the U.S., the USDA projects retail food prices, for 2008, will increase by 4 to 5% (Glauber, 2008). From the processing angle, there are several opportunities on different parts of the overall picture. For example, optimization of food processing, in terms of equipment design, energy consumption, supplies use optimization, ingredients and water utilization, and overall processing efficiency (yet maintaining food safety). In order to do that, existing and new processing technologies have yet to be designed, optimized, updated, tested, and transferred to the industry in a timely fashion in order to help them with upcoming difficulties. Industry growth depends on the understanding of the engineering principles that lies behind our food processes. As of today, very limited data is available regarding processing and modeling parameters, specifically for alternative processing, which are very important to minimize cost and time to optimize and scale-up under commercial conditions. Traditional models applied to thermal inactivation, such as first order kinetic, D and z values may work for alternative processing; however there are other variables and parameters that need to be considered. There is still the need to collect data to support these alternative models and processing techniques. The purpose of this study is to establish processing and model parameters of food materials under different processing variables. Having the knowledge of these parameters will help to better describe and predict the fate of pathogens in different food products, by still retaining the important nutrients (like antioxidant and total phenolics) during processing. Currently, minimally processed foods are driving the market since consumers are increasingly demanding healthy and more wholesome goods. Innovative and cutting edge technologies are being developed; however validation through scientific research to provide "proof of principle" is still needed. Recently, the food industry has turned to non-thermal processing techniques to achieve the 5-log reduction while minimizing heat exposure of the product, meaning that the product would be microbial safe while maintaining the essential nutrients, the phyto-chemical-health functional-components and sensory properties of the original unprocessed food products.<P>
APPROACH: This project will be focused on Georgia grown food commodities. For example, fruit juices, such as muscadine, pomegranate, blueberry, persimmons, etc.; and meat and poultry ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products. Technologies could include: UV radiation, hydrodynamic cavitation, radio frequency, supercritical CO2, high pressure processing, retorting, and high temperature pasteurization.Opaque fruit juices will be tested first. Pasteurization with tradition thermal technology will be compared with alternative technologies. Conventional thermal processing parameters will be tested and reevaluated in terms of nutrients retention and safety requirements. For the alternative technology, optimal processing parameters will be determined by pilot-scale studies to ensure maximum nutrient retention. Retention of antioxidants and phenolics will be determined using standard techniques, for example, HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), measuring antioxidant capacity and total phenolics. For the pilot-scale studies, different runs at different operational conditions will be tested, followed by the analytical testing. Once the best conditions for nutrient retention are determined, pathogen inactivation testing will follow, under those same conditions, in order to confirm the safety of the process, Mathematical model(s) will be developed to describe the retention of the antioxidants and phenolic compounds. The parameters and variables of the model will be determined based on the experimental data collected, and predictions evaluated statistically using JMP (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N.C.). Optimal processing conditions will be tested for microbial inactivation. Acceptable surrogates will be selected and use, depending on the food product and technology. Samples will be collected and enumerated for surviving microorganisms. Initial work will be testing UV-cavitation system. In this project, the UV-cavitation system will be tested at temperatures in the range of 50 to 100¢ªC, frequencies between 10 and 60 Hz, flow rate no greater than 1.5 liter/min, and ultraviolet light of 250 nm.

Martino, Karina
University of Georgia
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