Summary of Awards to Date

Enhancing food safety and quality by using engineering tools to validate and characterize non-thermal and thermal-processing.

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Date

Jul. 1, 2008 - Jun. 30, 2013

Award Number

GEO00643

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Investigator

Karina G. Martino, Ph.D.
University of Georgia

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.