Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - WATERMAP (Mapping of water mobility and localisation in multi-component foods)

Water is well recognised as a critical ingredient in the structuring of food products. Many of the processes involving interactions of water with food ingredients are well understood and their basic principles are used by cooks and food technologists to address consumer preferences and needs. During the last years, however, we have witnessed dramatic changes in consumers' behaviour. More and more food products are consumed in out-of-home channels, such as gas and railway stations. In their own homes consumers desire shorter preparation times for healthy and fresh meals. A critical aspect of the first type of products is to maintain the texture of the different food materials during shelf life. Control over moisture migration is a key element in this case. In the second approach, high-quality food products need to be assembled instantly and this often involves the rapid hydration of ingredients that were stabilised in a low moisture state.

In order to control moisture content and migration, the food scientist needs measurement tools that can map water and its mobility in a non-invasive manner. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) seems to be ideally suited to fulfil this role; however at the start of the project this method was only demonstrated for systems with high moisture contents. Hence, novel MRI experiments needed to be implemented in order to assess low-moisture food systems. Furthermore, the data generated with these new measurement tools needed to be presented in an adequate form, so that useful information could be provided to food scientists and product developers.

After the project completion we were able to assess moisture distribution in low moisture food systems via MRI. This allowed for non-invasive quantitative assessment of moisture redistribution during shelf-life in, for example, multi-component snacks. A modelling approach for the interpretation of hydration phenomena as observed in Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometric data was proposed. This formalism allowed for a more physical interpretation in terms of molecular mobility compared to conventional approaches for assessment of hydration.

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