Food is typically steam pasteurized in a batch system, which creates other potential drawbacks. Batch pasteurization increases dwell time, or the time the food is exposed to heat during the pasteurization process. During steam pasteurization, food is exposed to varying levels of heat for 40 to 60 minutes. As heat penetrates through the skin of nuts, reaching its core, protein bodies are distorted, oleosomes burst, and the endoplasmic network is destroyed. Also, the high temperature can potentially cause the skin of the nut to pull away, changing the mouthfeel of the product.
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Explore This IssueJune/July 2020
Another pasteurization process fading from popularity is fumigation. Fumigation uses propylene oxide (PPO) to reduce bacteria, yeasts, and mold on raw food. PPO has been classified as a potential carcinogen and could be a public health risk.
Irradiation, another approach that has lost support recently, uses one of three kinds of radiation: gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays. It carries a negative stigma amongst consumers, and FDA requires irradiated food to be labeled.
As processors seek new approaches to satisfy today’s consumer demand, there is an increased need for a better pasteurization technology for low-moisture foods. In turn, a new, non-thermal method for pasteurizing nuts, seeds, and grains gives processors an option to pasteurize foods in a manner that maintains the nutritional and sensory quality of food.
Non-Thermal Method Pasteurizes Food Using Organic Solution
Agri-Neo’s organic, non-thermal pasteurization method, called Neo-Pure, gives processors a new way to achieve food safety and still maintain food quality. The method uses an organic liquid solution, paired with a continuous food processing system, to pasteurize nuts, seeds, and grains. The technique uniformly destroys pathogens on food surfaces, including cracks and crevices, that can harbor pathogens.
The pasteurization process works by misting an organic liquid solution onto the surface of the food; the solution then biodegrades completely in a closed-loop food safety system. The integrated, continuous system can pasteurize a minimum of three metric tons of food per hour.
First, the dedicated food safety system disperses the organic solution, a fine mist, onto food. This approach allows the solution to uniformly cover the food, reaching cracks and crevices that can harbor pathogens. The solution is activated to kill pathogens as soon as it covers the food. It then begins to penetrate the cell walls of the pathogen cell in contact. Through this process, the pathogen cells start to disintegrate and die. Then, the food moves to a drying stage where dry air brings the food’s moisture back to its original state.
Non-thermal pasteurization can achieve a 5-log (99.999%) reduction of harmful pathogens such as Salmonella that is validated by third-party process authorities. The system delivers many additional benefits for food processors, including cost, speed, and the quality of the food.
The non-thermal pasteurization process is validated on more than 15 low-moisture foods, including chia, flax, and cashews.
Pasteurized Nuts and Seeds Meet Consumer Nutrition Expectations
A person’s sensory perception of food plays a vital role in food preferences and healthy eating habits. To meet the rising consumer demand, pasteurization processes should aim to maintain the four sensory elements of food that people experience when they eat it: appearance, flavor, odor, and texture. Sensory perception can contribute to a person’s food purchasing patterns. Innovative non-thermal pasteurization methods maintain the nutrition and sensory elements that flourish naturally in low-moisture foods and support the health and well-being of the people who eat them.
Now, processors can stand by their claims to offer raw, pasteurized nuts, seeds, and grains and meet the expectations of today’s consumers. Consumers deserve a better pasteurization solution for these foods, and processors are looking for more options to meet this consumer demand.