Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Improved heat-treatment of foods for nutrition, safety

An EU-funded consortium developed innovative heat-treatment technology for foods such as marmalades and milk products. The application kills microbes while beating the competition in maintenance of nutritional value.
Improved heat-treatment of foods for nutrition, safety
Most people do not live on farms where they have access to natural dairy products nor do they have the time to produce their own marmalades and jams.

Production of such food categories as well as many others requires the use of heat-treatment. Heating at very high temperatures pasteurises the products, killing harmful pathogens and making the foods safe for consumption.

In the case of products consisting of pieces of food in a non-solid matrix such as marmalades and pet foods, over-processing of the liquid phase often occurs in order to completely pasteurise the particulate matter.

Over-processing diminishes the nutritional value of the food and affects properties of importance to consumers such as taste and texture (organoleptic properties).

Conventional heat-treatment methods rely on transmission of heat from an external source into and through the food itself. European scientists proposed to investigate the promising potential of ohmic heat, or that produced by heat generation due to resistance, as an advantageous and desirable alternative.

They sought to improve taste and nutritional content while maintaining or surpassing activity related to pathogens. The potential markets in Australia, Japan and North America are particularly promising due to the emphasis on healthy and safe foods.

With funding of the ‘Ohmic heating for food processing’ (FOOD PRO) project, scientists studied the internal generation of heat by passing current through food.

The consortium built pilot-scale ohmic heating units and tested them for physical, biochemical and microbiological effects on food products. They also conducted psychological tests to determine consumer acceptance of foods produced using ohmic-resistance heating.

Coordinator C-Tech Innovation Ltd demonstrated the advantages of ohmic heating using strawberry jam as a sample. When compared to conventional production methods, after four weeks on the shelf ohmically heated jams scored higher in terms of taste, colour and levels of vitamin C. They also had more individual strawberry pieces.

Ohmic heating developed by the FOOD PRO consortium is thus an excellent and potentially preferable alternative to conventional heating. The technology is already being used in the identified markets of Japan and North America as well as in Europe and the United Kingdom.

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