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Integration of PEF in food processing for improving food quality, safety and competitiveness

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FieldFOOD (Integration of PEF in food processing for improving food quality, safety and competitiveness)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2016-10-01 al 2018-03-31

Pulsed electric field technology (PEF) is an innovative food processing technology that causes the increment of the permeability of the cytoplasmatic membranes of microorganisms and plant cells using low energy requirements whilst minimizing quality deterioration of food compounds. PEF technology permits to pasteurize heat-sensitive liquid foods, to enhance mass transfer in different operations of the food industry and to modify food structure.
Fieldfood represents an integrated approach to facilitate and speed up industrial exploitation of PEF by carrying out extensive demonstration activities with real food products and industrial prototypes in different food companies. A multidisciplinary consortium has been involved in FieldFOOD involving research institutions, a company expert in the development of PEF modulators and food companies representing different production sectors (wine, olive oil, tomato, fruit juices and cider) in which clear benefits of the implementation of the PEF technology exist.
The overall objective of FieldFOOD was to address successful, real-scale demonstrations of the viability of the introduction of PEF as a strategy to improve the competitiveness of the European food industry by improving food quality, optimizing process efficiency, reducing energetic costs, and introducing new foods in the market.
This broad objective has been achieved by:
- Conducting a systematic process analysis of different specific applications for a successful integration of the PEF technology in order to replace or complement existing traditional food processing technologies.
- Design modular, portable, low-cost pulse generators with the possibility of connecting several modulators and transducers in series, according to the production capacity of the companies
The first step in achieving FieldFOOD objectives was to carry out a systematic process analysis for the different industries with the goal of identifying the specific processing requirements of each application facilitating the design of tailored PEF equipment. These analyses permitted the identification of changes in the current processing lines (processing parameters, steps, etc.) to optimize benefits derived from the introduction of PEF. The second step entailed the design and manufacture of modular, portable, low cost pulse generators that were validated on-site in the processing lines of the SME companies involved in the project with the purpose deriving reliable conclusions on the benefits/drawbacks of the technology for the different applications.
PEF technology performance was found to vary depending on the application and on the processing conditions used. In the tests conducted in the winery, the PEF treatment permitted halving the maceration time and obtaining a more fruity wine. Considering the application of PEF to improve the thermo-physical peeling stage it has been demonstrated that PEF is able to reduce the pressure/temperature of steam used for peeling improving environmental indicators around 20%. Concerning the application focus in improving extraction of oil and juices form olives and fruits, the effect were very dependent of the composition and ripeness of the fruits. The PEF treatment improved the extraction around 5% when the conditions were appropriate.
Industrial test also permitted to evaluate the sustainability of the PEF technology application by conducting, LCA and LCC studies. As a general, conclusion, it can be claimed that the environmental benefits derived from the PEF application are very significant in some cases and small in other lines. However, none of the process showed worse environmental results after using PEF.
Exploitable results and the corresponding owners were identified, and exploitation strategies developed. From the market and competitor analysis, it is apparent that there are commercial opportunities for the implementation of PEF technology in the food industry. The business model proposed by EPS, which include renting of the units, is a novel approach that does not appear to be offered by other PEF suppliers.
FieldFOOD dissemination activities have been very effective, resulting in reaching a large group of stakeholders from the food processing industry, food equipment manufacturers, the wider food research area and society at large. These stakeholders, at different levels (Regional, European and International), were informed on the activities and outcomes at multiple events and through different online platforms.
Results obtained in FieldFOOD contribute to mitigate the certain barriers or hindrances to launching PEF technology on the market. In this sense, the most significant impacts derived of the results obtained during the three years of duration FieldFood are outline below.
• Performance and implementation for optimizing for improving productivity:
PEF technology performance has been found to vary depending on the application and on the processing conditions used. Consequently, the systematic process analysis approach and the development of production protocols that was undertaken within FieldFOOD is expected to help implementation.
• Reducing environmental impact of food processing:
PEF treatment caused different effect on each process and therefore, also the environmental and economic assessments must be adapted to the specific circumstances. Environmental benefits derived from the PEF application will contribute to the enhancement of eco-friendly processing by increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy inputs in the processes.
• Scale-up and industrial integration of PEF technology
Highly flexible, simple, low-cost processing PEF equipment developed allows food companies to be more effective in their processes, thereby giving them a competitive edge. In additional to the PEF generator, the integration of PEF into a process must take into consideration the prior and subsequent processing steps, as well as the characteristics of the food matrix. • Cost
One of the main goals within FieldFOOD was to design modular, portable, low-cost pulse generators that can be tailored for particular applications, where the PEF technology. A significant advantage of the portability of the PEF unit is that it allows for a rental business model avoiding the need for large capital investments, thus making it cost effective for food producers, but in particular SMEs.
• Regulatory aspects
As PEF technology is currently being used in food processing, such examples may facilitate the introduction of PEF in other applications. Results obtained in FieldFOOD will be used to meet with Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the International Olive Council (IOC) to propose that they include PEF technology as an approved process.
• Consumer perceptions
Some of the diffusion activities of FieldFOOD have been focused on alleviating some of the consumers’ concerns in PEF ad to create more awareness through the sharing of information when a new technology is introduced. Partners of FieldFOOD have participated in several diffusion activities such as newspaper articles and radio and tv programs with the purpose of introduce the technology to the consumers and participation in other diffusion activities such as “European Researchers' Night” or in fairs has permitted the consumer to test foods processed by PEF, contributing to gain the consumers’ trust in the technology.