food preservation


food preservation
Any method by which food is protected against spoilage by oxidation, bacteria, molds, and microorganisms.

Traditional methods include dehydration, smoking, salting, controlled fermentation (including pickling), and candying; certain spices have also long been used as antiseptics and preservatives. Among the modern processes for food preservation are refrigeration (including freezing), canning, pasteurization, irradiation, and the addition of chemical preservatives.

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Introduction

      any of a number of methods by which food is kept from spoilage after harvest or slaughter. Such practices date to prehistoric times. Among the oldest methods of preservation are drying, refrigeration, and fermentation. Modern methods include canning, pasteurization, freezing, irradiation, and the addition of chemicals. Advances in packaging materials have played an important role in modern food preservation.

Spoilage mechanisms
      Food spoilage may be defined as any change that renders food unfit for human consumption. These changes may be caused by various factors, including contamination by microorganisms, infestation by insects, or degradation by endogenous enzymes (those present naturally in the food). In addition, physical and chemical changes, such as the tearing of plant or animal tissues or the oxidation of certain constituents of food, may promote food spoilage. Foods obtained from plant or animal sources begin to spoil soon after harvest or slaughter. The enzymes (enzyme) contained in the cells of plant and animal tissues may be released as a result of any mechanical damage inflicted during postharvest handling. These enzymes begin to break down the cellular material. The chemical reactions catalyzed by the enzymes result in the degradation of food quality, such as the development of off-flavours, the deterioration of texture, and the loss of nutrients. The typical microorganisms that cause food spoilage are bacteria (e.g., Lactobacillus), yeasts (e.g., Saccharomyces), and molds (e.g., Rhizopus).

Microbial contamination
      Bacteria and fungi (yeasts and molds) are the principal types of microorganisms that cause food spoilage and food-borne illnesses. Foods may be contaminated by microorganisms at any time during harvest, storage, processing, distribution, handling, or preparation. The primary sources of microbial contamination are soil, air, animal feed, animal hides and intestines, plant surfaces, sewage, and food processing machinery or utensils.

      Bacteria are unicellular organisms that have a simple internal structure compared with the cells of other organisms. The increase in the number of bacteria in a population is commonly referred to as bacterial growth by microbiologists. This growth is the result of the division of one bacterial cell into two identical bacterial cells, a process called binary fission. Under optimal growth conditions, a bacterial cell may divide approximately every 20 minutes. Thus, a single cell can produce almost 70 billion cells in 12 hours. The factors that influence the growth of bacteria include nutrient availability, moisture, pH, oxygen levels, and the presence or absence of inhibiting substances (e.g., antibiotics).

      The nutritional requirements of most bacteria are chemical elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium, and iron. The bacteria obtain these elements by utilizing gases in the atmosphere and by metabolizing certain food constituents such as carbohydrates and proteins.

       temperature and pH play a significant role in controlling the growth rates of bacteria. Bacteria may be classified into three groups based on their temperature requirement for optimal growth: thermophiles (55°–75° C, or 130°–170° F), mesophiles (20°–45° C, or 70°–115° F), or psychrotrophs (10°–20° C, or 50°–70° F). In addition, most bacteria grow best in a neutral environment (pH equal to 7).

      Bacteria also require a certain amount of available water for their growth. The availability of water is expressed as water activity and is defined by the ratio of the vapour pressure of water in the food to the vapour pressure of pure water at a specific temperature. Therefore, the water activity of any food product is always a value between 0 and 1, with 0 representing an absence of water and 1 representing pure water. Most bacteria do not grow in foods with a water activity below 0.91, although some halophilic bacteria (those able to tolerate high salt concentrations) can grow in foods with a water activity lower than 0.75. Growth may be controlled by lowering the water activity—either by adding solutes such as sugar, glycerol, and salt or by removing water through dehydration.

      The oxygen requirements for optimal growth vary considerably for different bacteria. Some bacteria require the presence of free oxygen for growth and are called obligate aerobes, whereas other bacteria are poisoned by the presence of oxygen and are called obligate anaerobes. Facultative anaerobes are bacteria that can grow in both the presence or absence of oxygen. In addition to oxygen concentration, the oxygen reduction potential of the growth medium influences bacterial growth. The oxygen reduction potential is a relative measure of the oxidizing or reducing capacity of the growth medium.

      When bacteria contaminate a food substrate, it takes some time before they start growing. This lag phase is the period when the bacteria are adjusting to the environment. Following the lag phase is the log phase, in which population grows in a logarithmic fashion. As the population grows, the bacteria consume available nutrients and produce waste products. When the nutrient supply is depleted, the growth rate enters a stationary phase in which the number of viable bacteria cells remains the same. During the stationary phase, the rate of bacterial cell growth is equal to the rate of bacterial cell death. When the rate of cell death becomes greater than the rate of cell growth, the population enters the decline phase.

      A bacterial population is expressed either per gram or per square centimetre of surface area. Rarely does the total bacterial population exceed 1010 cells per gram. A population of less than 106 cells per gram does not cause any noticeable spoilage except in raw milk. Populations of between 106 and 107 cells per gram cause spoilage in some foods; for example, they can generate off-odours in vacuum-packaged meats. Populations of between 107 and 108 cells per gram produce off-odours in meats and some vegetables. At levels above 5 × 107 cells per gram, most foods exhibit some form of spoilage.

      When the conditions for bacterial cell growth are unfavourable (e.g., low or high temperatures or low moisture content), several species of bacteria can produce resistant cells called endospores. Endospores are highly resistant to heat, chemicals, desiccation (drying out), and ultraviolet light. The endospores may remain dormant for long periods of time. When conditions become favourable for growth (e.g., thawing of meats), the endospores germinate and produce viable cells that can begin exponential growth.

      The two types of fungi that are important in food spoilage are yeasts (yeast) and molds (mold). Molds are multicellular fungi that reproduce by the formation of spores (single cells that can grow into a mature fungus). Spores are formed in large numbers and are easily dispersed through the air. Once these spores land on a food substrate, they can grow and reproduce if conditions are favourable. Yeasts are unicellular fungi that are much larger than bacterial cells. They reproduce by cell division (binary fission) or budding.

      The conditions affecting the growth of fungi are similar to those affecting bacteria. Both yeasts and molds are able to grow in an acidic environment (pH less than 7). The pH range for yeast growth is 3.5 to 4.5 and for molds is 3.5 to 8.0. The low pH of fruits is generally unfavourable for the growth of bacteria, but yeasts and molds can grow and cause spoilage in fruits. For example, species of the fungal genus Colletotrichum cause crown rot in bananas. Yeasts promote fermentation in fruits by breaking down sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The amount of available water in a food product is also critical for the growth of fungi. Yeasts are unable to grow at a water activity of less than 0.9, and molds are unable to grow at a water activity below 0.8.

Control of microbial contamination
      The most common methods used either to kill or to reduce the growth of microorganisms are the application of heat, the removal of water, the lowering of temperature during storage, the reduction of pH, the control of oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations, and the removal of the nutrients needed for growth. The use of chemicals as preservatives is strictly regulated by governmental agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. Although a chemical may have preservative functions, its safety must be proved before it may be used in food products. To suppress yeast and mold growth in foods, a number of chemical preservatives are permitted. In the United States, the list of such chemicals, known as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe), includes compounds such as benzoic acid, sodium benzoate, propionic acid, sorbic acid, and sodium diacetate.

Chemical deterioration
Enzymatic reactions
      Enzymes (enzyme) are large protein molecules that act as biological catalysts, accelerating chemical reactions without being consumed to any appreciable extent themselves. The activity of enzymes is specific for a certain set of chemical substrates, and it is dependent on both pH and temperature.

       Enzymes that cause food spoilageThe living tissues of plants and animals maintain a balance of enzymatic activity. This balance is disrupted upon harvest or slaughter. In some cases, enzymes that play a useful role in living tissues may catalyze spoilage reactions following harvest or slaughter. For example, the enzyme pepsin is found in the stomach of all animals and is involved in the breakdown of proteins during the normal digestion process. However, soon after the slaughter of an animal, pepsin begins to break down the proteins of the organs, weakening the tissues and making them more susceptible to microbial contamination. After the harvesting of fruits, certain enzymes remain active within the cells of the plant tissues. These enzymes continue to catalyze the biochemical processes of ripening and may eventually lead to rotting, as can be observed in bananas. In addition, oxidative enzymes in fruits continue to carry out cellular respiration (the process of using oxygen to metabolize glucose for energy). This continued respiration decreases the shelf life of fresh fruits and may lead to spoilage. Respiration may be controlled by refrigerated storage or modified-atmosphere packaging. Table 1 (Enzymes that cause food spoilage) lists a number of enzymes involved in the degradation of food quality.

      The unsaturated fatty acids (fatty acid) present in the lipids of many foods are susceptible to chemical breakdown when exposed to oxygen. The oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids is autocatalytic; that is, it proceeds by a free- radical chain reaction. Free radicals contain an unpaired electron (represented by a dot in the molecular formula) and, therefore, are highly reactive chemical molecules. The basic mechanisms in a free-radical chain reaction involve initiation, propagation, and termination steps (Figure 1—>). Under certain conditions, in initiation a free-radical molecule (X · ) present in the food removes a hydrogen (H) atom from a lipid molecule, producing a lipid radical (L · ). This lipid radical reacts with molecular oxygen (O2) to form a peroxy radical (LOO · ). The peroxy radical removes a hydrogen atom from another lipid molecule and the reaction starts over again (propagation). During the propagation steps, hydroperoxide molecules (LOOH) are formed that may break down into alkoxy (LO · ) and peroxy radicals plus water (H2O). The lipid, alkoxy, and peroxy radicals may combine with one another (or other radicals) to form stable, nonpropagating products (termination). These products result in the development of rancid off-flavours. In addition to promoting rancidity, the free radicals and peroxides produced in these reactions may have other negative effects, such as the bleaching of food colour and the destruction of vitamins A, C, and E. This type of deterioration is prevalent in fried snacks, nuts, cooking oils, and margarine.

Maillard reaction
      Another chemical reaction that causes major food spoilage is nonenzymatic browning, also known as the Maillard reaction. This reaction takes place between reducing sugars (simple monosaccharides capable of carrying out reduction reactions) and the amino group of proteins or amino acids present in foods. The products of the Maillard reaction lead to a darkening of colour, reduced solubility of proteins, development of bitter flavours, and reduced nutritional availability of certain amino acids such as lysine. The rate of this reaction is influenced by the water activity, temperature, and pH of the food product. Nonenzymatic browning causes spoilage during the storage of dry milk, dry whole eggs, and breakfast cereals.

Light-induced (light) reactions
      Light influences a number of chemical reactions that lead to spoilage of foods. These light-induced reactions include the destruction of chlorophyll (the photosynthetic pigment that gives plants their green colour), resulting in the bleaching of certain vegetables; the discoloration of fresh meats; the destruction of riboflavin in milk; and the oxidation of vitamin C and carotenoid pigments (a process called photosensitized oxidation). The use of packaging material that prevents exposure to light is one of the most effective means of preventing light-induced chemical spoilage.

Low-temperature preservation
      Storage at low temperatures prolongs the shelf life of many foods. In general, low temperatures reduce the growth rates of microorganisms and slow many of the physical and chemical reactions that occur in foods.

      The life of many foods may be increased by storage at temperatures below 4° C (40° F). Commonly refrigerated foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and meats. Some foods, such as tropical fruits (e.g., bananas), are damaged if exposed to low temperatures. Also, refrigeration cannot improve the quality of decayed food; it can only retard deterioration. One problem of modern mechanical refrigeration—that of dehydration of foods due to moisture condensation—has been overcome through humidity control mechanisms within the storage chamber and by appropriate packaging techniques.

      Freezing and frozen storage provide an excellent means of preserving the nutritional quality of foods. At subfreezing temperatures the nutrient loss is extremely slow for the typical storage period used in commercial trade.

      Early freezing methods were based on the principle that mixing salt with ice results in temperatures well below 0° C (32° F). By the end of the 19th century, this method was being used commercially in the United States to freeze fish and poultry. By the 1920s Clarence Birdseye (Birdseye, Clarence) had developed two processes for freezing fish based on his quick freezing theory. His first patent, describing a method for preserving piscatorial products, involved placing food between two metal plates that were chilled by a calcium chloride solution to approximately −40° C (−40° F). The second process utilized two hollow metal plates that were cooled to −25° C (−13° F) by vaporization of ammonia. This freezing apparatus was the forerunner of the multiple plate freezer that is widely used in the modern food industry.

The freezing process
      The freezing of food involves lowering its temperature below 0° C, resulting in the gradual conversion of water, present in the food, into ice. Freezing is a crystallization process that begins with a nucleus or a seed derived from either a nonaqueous particle or a cluster of water molecules (formed when the temperature is reduced below 0° C). This seed must be of a certain size to provide an adequate site for the crystal to begin to grow. If physical conditions are conducive to the presence of numerous seeds for crystallization, then a large number of small ice crystals will form. However, if only a few seeds are initially available, then a few ice crystals will form and each will grow to a large size. The size and the number of ice crystals influence the final quality of many frozen foods; for example, the smooth texture of ice cream indicates the presence of a large number of small ice crystals.

      In pure water, the freezing process is initiated by lowering the temperature to slightly below 0° C, called supercooling. As ice crystals begin to grow, the temperature returns to the freezing point. During the conversion of liquid water to ice, the temperature of the system does not change. The heat removed during this step is called the latent heat of fusion (equivalent to 333 joules per gram of water). Once all the water is converted to ice, any additional removal of heat will result in a decrease in the temperature below 0° C.

      The freezing (freezing point) of foods exhibits a number of important differences from the freezing of pure water. Foods do not freeze at 0° C. Instead, owing to the presence of different soluble particulates (solutes) in the water present in foods, most foods begin to freeze at a temperature between 0° and −5° Χ (32° and 23° F). In addition, the removal of latent heat in foods during freezing does not occur at a fixed temperature. As the water present in the food freezes into ice, the remaining water becomes more concentrated with solutes. As a result, the freezing point is further depressed. Therefore, foods have a zone of maximum ice crystal formation that typically extends from −1° to −4° C (30° to 25° F). Damage to food quality during freezing can be minimized if the temperature of the product is brought below this temperature range as quickly as possible.

Industrial freezers
      The rate at which heat is removed from a food during freezing depends on how fast heat can travel within the food and how efficiently it can be liberated from the surface of the food into the surrounding atmosphere. Industrial freezers remove heat from the surface of a food as rapidly as possible. There are several types of industrial freezers, including air-blast tunnel freezers, belt freezers, fluidized-bed freezers, plate freezers, and cryogenic freezers.

      In air-blast tunnel freezers and belt freezers, precooled air at approximately −40° C is blown over the food products. Packaged foods, such as fruits, vegetables, bakery goods, poultry, meats, and prepared meals, are usually frozen in air-blast tunnels. The packages are placed onto dollies or hand trucks and then rolled into the freezer tunnels. In a belt freezer, food is placed on a conveyor belt that moves through a freezing zone. Bakery goods, chicken parts, and meat patties are frozen using a belt freezer.

      Fluidized-bed freezers are used to freeze particulate foods such as peas, cut corn, diced carrots, and strawberries. The foods are placed on a mesh conveyor belt and moved through a freezing zone in which cold air is directed upward through the mesh belt and the food particulates begin to tumble and float. This tumbling exposes all sides of the food to the cold air and minimizes the resistance to heat transfer at the surface of the food.

      Plate freezers are used to freeze flat products, such as pastries, fish fillets, and beef patties, as well as irregular-shaped vegetables that are packaged in brick-shaped containers, such as asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli. The food is firmly pressed between metal plates that are cooled to subfreezing temperatures by internally circulating refrigerants.

      Cryogenic (cryogenics) freezing is used to freeze food at an extremely fast rate. The food is moved through a spray of liquid nitrogen or directly immersed in liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen boils around the food at a temperature of −196° C (−321° F) and extracts a large amount of heat.

Quality of frozen foods
      Improper freezing or storage of foods may result in detrimental quality changes. When foods with high amounts of water are frozen slowly, they may experience a loss of fluid, called drip, upon thawing. This fluid loss causes dehydration and nutrient loss in frozen food products.

      During frozen storage, the ice crystals present in foods may enlarge in size, producing undesirable changes in texture. This phenomenon is commonly observed when the storage temperature is allowed to fluctuate. For example, ice cream stored in an automatic defrosting domestic freezer becomes sandy in texture because the ice crystals increase in size as the temperature of the system fluctuates.

      Improperly packaged frozen foods lose small amounts of moisture during storage, resulting in surface dehydration (commonly called freezer burn). Frozen meats with freezer burn have the appearance of brown paper and quickly become rancid. Freezer burn can be minimized by the use of tightly wrapped packages and the elimination of fluctuating temperatures during storage.

Thermal processing
      Thermal processing is defined as the combination of temperature and time required to eliminate a desired number of microorganisms from a food product.

      Nicolas Appert (Appert, Nicolas), a Parisian confectioner by trade, is credited with establishing the heat processing of foods as an industry. In 1810 he received official recognition for his process of enclosing food in bottles, corking the bottles, and placing the bottles in boiling water for various periods of time. In the same year Peter Durand received a British patent for the use of containers made of glass, pottery, tin, or other metals for the heat preservation of foods. In 1822 Ezra Daggett and Thomas Kensett announced the availability of preserved foods in tin cans in the United States. Tin-coated steel containers, made from 98.5 percent sheet steel with a thin coating of tin, soon became common. These cans had a double seamed top and bottom to provided an airtight seal and could be manufactured at high speeds.

      The establishment of the canning process on a more scientific basis did not occur until 1896, when the microorganism Clostridium botulinum, with its lethal toxin causing botulism, was discovered by Émile van Ermengem.

Presterilization procedures
      Selected crop varieties are grown specially for canning purposes. The harvesting schedules of the crops are carefully selected to conform to the cannery operations. A typical canning operation involves cleaning, filling, exhausting, can sealing, heat processing, cooking, labeling, casing, and storage. Most of these operations are performed using high-speed, automatic machines.

 Cleaning involves the use of shakers, rotary reel cleaners, air blasters, water sprayers (as shown in Figure 2—>), or immersion washers. Any inedible or extraneous material is removed before washing, and only potable water is used in the cleaning systems.

      Automatic filling machines are used to place the cleaned food into cans or other containers, such as glass jars or plastic pouches. When foods containing trapped air, such as leafy vegetables, are canned, the air must be removed from the cans prior to closing and sealing the lids by a process called exhausting. Exhausting is accomplished using steam exhaust hoods or by creation of a vacuum.

      Immediately after exhausting, the lids are placed on the cans and the cans are sealed. An airtight seal is achieved between the lid and the rim of the can using a thin layer of gasket or compound. The anaerobic conditions prevent the growth of oxygen-requiring microorganisms. In addition, many of the spores of anaerobic microorganisms are less resistant to heat and are easily destroyed during the heat treatment.

      The time and temperature required for the sterilization of foods are influenced by several factors, including the type of microorganisms found on the food, the size of the container, the acidity or pH of the food, and the method of heating.

      The thermal processes of canning are generally designed to destroy the spores of the bacterium C. botulinum. This microorganism can easily grow under anaerobic conditions, producing the deadly toxin that causes botulism. Sterilization requires heating to temperatures greater than 100° C (212° F). However, C. botulinum is not viable in acidic foods that have a pH less than 4.6. These foods can be adequately processed by immersion in water at temperatures just below 100° C.

      The sterilization of low-acid foods (pH greater than 4.6) is generally carried out in steam vessels called retorts (retort) at temperatures ranging from 116° to 129° C (240° to 265° F). The retorts are controlled by automatic devices, and detailed records are kept of the time and temperature treatments for each lot of processed cans. At the end of the heating cycle, the cans are cooled under water sprays or in water baths to approximately 38° C (100° F) and dried to prevent any surface rusting. The cans are then labeled, placed in fibreboard cases either by hand or machine, and stored in cool, dry warehouses.

Quality of canned foods
      The sterilization process is designed to provide the required heat treatment to the slowest heating location inside the can, called the cold spot. The areas of food farthest from the cold spot get a more severe heat treatment that may result in overprocessing and impairment of the overall quality of the product. Flat, laminated pouches can reduce the heat damage caused by overprocessing.

      A significant loss of nutrients, especially heat-labile vitamins (vitamin), may occur during the canning process. In general, canning has no major effect on the carbohydrate, protein, or fat content of foods. Vitamins A and D and beta-carotene are resistant to the effects of heat. However, vitamin B1 is sensitive to thermal treatment and the pH of the food. Although the anaerobic conditions of canned foods have a protective effect on the stability of vitamin C, it is destroyed during long heat treatments.

      The ends of processed cans are slightly concave because of the internal vacuum created during sealing. Any bulging of the ends of a can may indicate a deterioration in quality due to mechanical, chemical, or physical factors. This bulging may lead to swelling and possible explosion of the can.

      Pasteurization is the application of heat to a food product in order to destroy pathogenic (disease-producing) microorganisms, to inactivate spoilage-causing enzymes, and to reduce or destroy spoilage microorganisms. The relatively mild heat treatment used in the pasteurization process causes minimal changes in the sensory and nutritional characteristics of foods compared to the severe heat treatments used in the sterilization process.

      The temperature and time requirements of the pasteurization process are influenced by the pH of the food. When the pH is below 4.5, spoilage microorganisms and enzymes are the main targets of pasteurization. For example, the pasteurization process for fruit juices is aimed at inactivating certain enzymes such as pectinesterase and polygalacturonase. The typical processing conditions for the pasteurization of fruit juices include heating to 77° C (171° F) and holding for 1 minute, followed by rapid cooling to 7° C (45° F). In addition to inactivating enzymes, these conditions destroy any yeasts or molds that may lead to spoilage. Equivalent conditions capable of reducing spoilage microorganisms involve heating to 65° C (149° F) and holding for 30 minutes or heating to 88° C (190° F) and holding for 15 seconds.

      When the pH of a food is greater than 4.5, the heat treatment must be severe enough to destroy pathogenic bacteria. In the pasteurization of milk, the time and temperature conditions target the pathogenic bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Coxiella burnetti, and Brucella abortus. The typical heat treatment used for pasteurizing milk is 72° C (162° F) for 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling to 7° C. Other equivalent heat treatments include heating to 63° C (145° F) for 30 minutes, 90° C (194° F) for 0.5 second, and 94° C (201° F) for 0.1 second. The high-temperature–short-time (HTST) treatments cause less damage to the nutrient composition and sensory characteristics of foods and therefore are preferred over the low-temperature–long-time (LTLT) treatments.

      Since the heat treatment of pasteurization is not severe enough to render a product sterile, additional methods such as refrigeration, fermentation, or the addition of chemicals are often used to control microbial growth and to extend the shelf life of a product. For example, the pasteurization of milk does not kill thermoduric bacteria (those resistant to heat), such as Lactobacillus and Streptococcus, or thermophilic bacteria (those that grow at high temperatures), such as Bacillus and Clostridium. Therefore, pasteurized milk must be kept under refrigerated conditions.

      Liquid foods such as milk, fruit juices, beers, wines, and liquid eggs are pasteurized using plate-type heat exchangers. Wine and fruit juices are normally deaerated prior to pasteurization in order to remove oxygen and minimize oxidative deterioration of the products. Plate-type heat exchangers consist of a large number of thin, vertical steel plates that are clamped together in a frame. The plates are separated by small gaskets that allow the liquid to flow between each successive plate. The liquid product and heating medium (e.g., hot water) are pumped through alternate channels, and the gaskets ensure that the liquid product and heating or cooling mediums are kept separate. Plate-type heat exchangers are effective in rapid heating and cooling applications. After the pasteurization process is completed, the product is packaged under aseptic conditions to prevent recontamination of the product.

Aseptic processing
      The aseptic process involves placing a sterilized product into a sterilized package that is then sealed under sterile conditions. It began in 1914 with the development of sterile filters for use in the wine industry. However, because of unreliable machinery, it remained commercially unsuccessful until 1948 when William McKinley Martin helped develop the Martin system, which later became known as the Dole Aseptic Canning System. This system involved the sterilization of liquid foods by rapidly heating them in tubular heat exchangers, followed by holding and cooling steps. The cans and lids were sterilized with superheated steam, and the sterilized containers were filled with the sterile liquid food. The lids were then sealed in an atmosphere of superheated steam. By the 1980s hydrogen peroxide was being used throughout Europe and the United States for the sterilization of polyethylene surfaces.

Commercial sterility
      In aseptic processing the thermal process is based on achieving commercial sterility—i.e., no more than 1 nonsterile package for every 10,000 processed packages. The aseptic process uses the high-temperature–short-time (HTST) method in which foods are heated at a high temperature for a short period of time. The time and temperature conditions depend on several factors, such as size, shape, and type of food. The HTST method results in a higher retention of quality characteristics, such as vitamins, odour, flavour, and texture, while achieving the same level of sterility as the traditional canning process in which food is heated at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.

      The heating and cooling of liquid foods can be performed using metal plate heat exchangers. These heat exchangers have large surface areas that result in improved heating and cooling rates. Other types of heat exchangers involve surrounding the food with steam or directly injecting steam into the food. Products sterilized with steam are then pumped into a vacuum chamber, where they are cooled rapidly.

      Liquid foods that contain large solid particles are heated in scraped-surface heat exchangers. These heat exchangers use blades to continuously scrape the inside surface of the heating chamber. The scraping action protects highly viscous foods from being burned on the heating surface.

      An alternate method for heating foods, called ohmic heating, passes a low-frequency electric current of 50 to 60 hertz directly through the food. A liquid food containing solids, such as diced fruit, is pumped through a pipe surrounded by electrodes. The product is heated as long as the electrical conductivity of the food is uniform throughout the entire volume. This uniform rate of heating prevents the overprocessing of any individual region of the food. Ohmic heating yields a food product of higher quality than those processed using conventional systems.

packaging aseptically processed products
      The packaging containers used in aseptic processing are sterilized separately before they are used. The packaging machinery is sterilized using steam, sterile gases, or hydrogen peroxide. The sterilization process is generally monitored by culturing a test organism. For example, the remaining presence of the highly heat-resistant bacterium Bacillus subtilis globigii can be used as a marker to measure the completeness of sterilization.

      Packages must be sealed under sterile conditions, usually using high-temperature sealing plates. Foods that are aseptically processed do not require refrigeration for storage.

Blanching
      Blanching is a thermal process used mostly for vegetable tissues prior to freezing, drying, or canning. Before canning, blanching serves several purposes, including cleaning of the product, reducing the microbial load, removing any entrapped gases, and wilting the tissues of leafy vegetables so that they can be easily put into the containers. Blanching also inactivates enzymes that cause deterioration of foods during frozen storage.

      Blanching is carried out at temperatures close to 100° C (212° F) for two to five minutes in either a water bath or a steam chamber. Because steam blanchers use a minimal amount of water, extra care must be taken to ensure that the product is uniformly exposed to the steam. Steam blanching leafy vegetables is especially difficult because they tend to clump together. The effectiveness of the blanching treatment is usually determined by measuring the residual activity of an enzyme called peroxidase.

Controlling water activity
      Foods containing high concentrations of water are generally more susceptible to deterioration by microbial contamination and enzymatic activity. The water content of foods can be controlled by removing water through dehydration or by adding solutes to the food. In both cases the concentration of solutes in the food increases and the concentration of water decreases.

      Dehydration, or drying, of foods has long been practiced commercially in the production of spaghetti and other starch products. As a result of advances made during World War II, the technique has been applied to a growing list of food products, including fruits, vegetables, skim milk, potatoes, soup mixes, and meats.

      Pathogenic (toxin-producing) bacteria occasionally withstand the unfavourable environment of dried foods, causing food poisoning when the product is rehydrated and eaten. Control of bacterial contaminants in dried foods requires high-quality raw materials having low contamination, adequate sanitation in the processing plant, pasteurization before drying, and storage conditions that protect from infection by dust, insects, and rodents or other animals.

      Foodstuffs may be dried in air, superheated steam, vacuum, or inert gas or by direct application of heat. Air is the most generally used drying medium, because it is plentiful and convenient and permits gradual drying, allowing sufficient control to avoid overheating that might result in scorching and discoloration. Air may be used both to transport heat to the food being dried and to carry away liberated moisture vapour. The use of other gases requires special moisture recovery systems.

      Loss of moisture content produced by drying results in increased concentration of nutrients (nutrient) in the remaining food mass. The proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in dried foods are present in larger amounts per unit weight than in their fresh counterparts, and the nutrient value of most reconstituted or rehydrated foods is comparable to that of fresh items. The biological value of dried protein is dependent, however, on the method of drying. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can render the protein less useful in the diet. Low-temperature treatment, on the other hand, may increase the digestibility of protein. Some vitamins (vitamin) are sensitive to the dehydration process. For example, in dried meats significant amounts of vitamin C and the B vitamins—riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin—are lost during dehydration.

      Dried eggs, meat, milk, and vegetables are ordinarily packaged (packaging) in tin or aluminum containers. Fibreboard or other types of material may be employed but are less satisfactory than metal, which offers protection against insects and moisture loss or gain and which permits packaging with an inert gas.

      In-package desiccants (drying agents) improve storage stability of dehydrated white potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beets, and onions and give substantial protection against browning. Retention of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is markedly improved by packaging at temperatures up to 49° C (120° F); the packaging gas may be either nitrogen or air.

      A related technique, freeze-drying, employs high vacuum conditions, permitting establishment of specific temperature and pressure conditions. The raw food is frozen, and the low pressure conditions cause the ice in the food to sublimate directly into vapour (i.e., it does not transit through the liquid state). Adequate control of processing conditions contributes to satisfactory rehydration, with substantial retention of nutrient, colour, flavour, and texture characteristics.

Concentration of moist foods
      Foods with substantial acidity, when concentrated to 65 percent or more soluble solids, may be preserved by mild heat treatments. High acid content is not a requirement for preserving foods concentrated to over 70 percent solids.

      Fruit jelly and preserve manufacture, an important fruit by-product industry, is based on the high-solids–high-acid principle, with its moderate heat-treatment requirements. Fruits that possess excellent qualities but are visually unattractive may be preserved and utilized in the form of concentrates, which have a pleasing taste and substantial nutritive value.

      Jellies and other fruit preserves are prepared from fruit by adding sugar and concentrating by evaporation to a point where microbial spoilage cannot occur. The prepared product can be stored without hermetic sealing, although such protection is useful to control mold growth, moisture loss, and oxidation. In modern practice, vacuum sealing has replaced the use of a paraffin cover.

      The jelly-forming characteristics of fruits and their extracts are due to pectin, a substance present in varying amounts in all fruits. The essential ingredients in a fruit gel are pectin, acid, sugar, and water. Flavouring and colouring agents may be added, and additional pectin and acid may be added to overcome any deficiencies in the fruit itself.

      Candied and glacéed fruits are made by slow impregnation of the fruit with syrup until the concentration of sugar in the tissue is sufficiently high to prevent growth of spoilage microorganisms. The candying process is conducted by treating fruits with syrups of progressively increasing sugar concentrations, so that the fruit does not soften into jam or become tough and leathery. After sugar impregnation the fruit is washed and dried. The resulting candied fruit may be packaged and marketed in this condition or may be dipped into syrup, becoming coated with a thin glazing of sugar (glacéed) and again dried.

Fermentation and pickling
      Although microorganisms are usually thought of as causing spoilage, they are capable under certain conditions of producing desirable effects, including oxidative and alcoholic fermentation. The microorganisms that grow in a food product, and the changes they produce, are determined by acidity, available carbohydrates, oxygen, and temperature. An important food preservation method combines salting to control microorganisms selectively and fermentation to stabilize the treated tissues.

Pickled fruits and vegetables (vegetable)
      Fresh fruits and vegetables soften after 24 hours in a watery solution and begin a slow, mixed fermentation-putrefaction. The addition of salt suppresses undesirable microbial activity, creating a favourable environment for the desired fermentation. Most green vegetables and fruit may be preserved by pickling.

      When the pickling process is applied to a cucumber, its fermentable carbohydrate reserve is turned into acid, its colour changes from bright green to olive or yellow-green, and its tissue becomes translucent. The salt concentration is maintained at 8 to 10 percent during the first week and is increased 1 percent a week thereafter until the solution reaches 16 percent. Under properly controlled conditions the salted, fermented cucumber, called salt stock, may be held for several years.

      Salt stock is not a consumer commodity. It must be freshened and prepared into consumer items. In cucumbers this is accomplished by leaching the salt from the cured cucumber with warm water (43°–54° C [110°–130° F]) for 10 to 14 hours. This process is repeated at least twice, and, in the final wash, alum may be added to firm the tissue and turmeric to improve the colour.

Pickled meat (meat processing)
      Meat may be preserved by dry curing or with a pickling solution. The ingredients used in curing and pickling are sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sodium chloride, sugar, and citric acid or vinegar.

      Various methods are used: the meat may be mixed with dry ingredients; it may be soaked in pickling solution; pickling solution may be pumped or injected into the flesh; or a combination of these methods may be used.

      Curing may be combined with smoking. Smoke acts as a dehydrating agent and coats the meat surfaces with various chemicals, including small amounts of formaldehyde.

Deterioration of fermented and pickled products
      Fermented foods and pickled products require protection against molds (mold), which metabolize the acid developed and allow the advance of other microorganisms. Fermented and pickled food products placed in cool storage can be expected to remain stable for several months. Longer storage periods demand more complete protection, such as canning.

       nutrient retention in fermented and pickled products is about equal to retention for products preserved by other methods. Carbohydrates usually undergo conversion to acid or to alcohol, but these are also of nutritive value. In some instances, nutrient levels are increased because of the presence of yeasts.

Chemical preservation
      Chemical food preservatives are substances which, under certain conditions, either delay the growth of microorganisms without necessarily destroying them or prevent deterioration of quality during manufacture and distribution. The former group includes some natural food constituents which, when added to foods, retard or prevent the growth of microorganisms. sugar is used partly for this purpose in making jams, jellies, and marmalades and in candying fruit. The use of vinegar and salt in pickling and of alcohol in brandying also falls in this category. Some chemicals foreign to foods are added to prevent the growth of microorganisms. The latter group includes some natural food constituents such as ascorbic acid ( vitamin C), which is added to frozen peaches to prevent browning, and a long list of chemical compounds foreign to foods and classified as antioxidants, bleaching agents, acidulants, neutralizers, stabilizers, firming agents, and humectants.

Organic chemical preservatives
      Sodium benzoate and other benzoates are among the principal chemical preservatives. The use of benzoates in certain products in prescribed quantity (usually not exceeding 0.1 percent) is permitted in most countries, some of which require a declaration of its use on the label of the food container. Since free benzoic acid actually is the active agent, benzoates must be used in an acid medium in order to be effective. The ability of cranberries to resist rapid deterioration is attributed to their high benzoic acid content. Benzoic acid is more effective against yeasts than against molds and bacteria.

      Other organic compounds used as preservatives include vanillic acid esters, monochloroacetic acid, propionates, sorbic acid, dehydroacetic acid, and glycols.

Inorganic chemical preservatives
      Sulfur dioxide and sulfites are perhaps the most important inorganic chemical preservatives. Sulfites are more effective against molds than against yeasts and are widely used in the preservation of fruits and vegetables. Sulfur compounds are extensively used in wine making and, as in most other instances when this preservative is used, much care has to be exercised to keep the concentrations low in order to avoid undesirable effects on flavour.

      Oxidizing agents such as nitrates and nitrites are commonly used in the curing of meats.

Food irradiation
      Food irradiation involves the use of either high-speed electron beams or high-energy radiation with wavelengths smaller than 200 nanometres, or 2000 angstroms (e.g., X rays and gamma rays). These rays contain sufficient energy to break chemical bonds and ionize molecules that lie in their path. The two most common sources of high-energy radiation used in the food industry are cobalt-60 (60Co) and cesium-137 (137Cs). For the same level of energy, gamma rays have a greater penetrating power into foods than high-speed electrons.

      The unit of absorbed dose of radiation by a material is denoted as the gray (Gy), one gray being equal to the absorption of one joule of energy by one kilogram of food. The energy possessed by an electron is called an electron volt (eV). One eV is the amount of kinetic energy gained by an electron as it accelerates through an electric potential difference of one volt. It is usually more convenient to use a larger unit such as megaelectron volt (MeV), which is equal to one million electron volts.

Biological effects of irradiation
      Irradiation has both direct and indirect effects on biological materials. The direct effects are due to the collision of radiation with atoms, resulting in an ejection of electrons from the atoms. The indirect effects are due to the formation of free radicals (unstable molecules carrying an extra electron) during the radiolysis (radiation-induced splitting) of water molecules. The radiolysis of water molecules produces hydroxyl radicals, highly reactive species that interact with the organic molecules present in foods. The products of these interactions cause many of the characteristics associated with the spoilage of food, such as off-flavours and off-odours.

Positive effects
      The bactericidal (bacteria-killing) effect of ionizing radiation is due to damage of the biomolecules of bacterial cells. The free radicals produced during irradiation may destroy or change the structure of cellular membranes. In addition, radiation causes irreversible changes to the nucleic acid molecules (i.e., DNA and RNA) of bacterial cells, inhibiting their ability to grow. Pathogenic bacteria that are unable to produce resistant endospores in foods such as poultry, meats, and seafood can be eliminated by radiation doses of 3 to 10 kilograys. If the dose of radiation is too low, then the damaged DNA can be repaired by specialized enzymes. If oxygen is present during irradiation, the bacteria are more readily damaged. Doses in the range of 0.2 to 0.36 kilograys are required to stop the reproduction of Trichinella spiralis (trichina) (the parasitic worm that causes trichinosis) in pork, although much higher doses are necessary to eliminate it from the meat.

      The dose of radiation used on food products is divided into three levels. Radappertization is a dose in the range of 20 to 30 kilograys, necessary to sterilize a food product. Radurization is a dose of 1 to 10 kilograys, that, like pasteurization, is useful for targeting specific pathogens. Radicidation involves doses of less than 1 kilogray for extending shelf life and inhibiting sprouting.

Negative effects
      In the absence of oxygen, radiolysis of lipids leads to cleavage of the interatomic bonds in the fat molecules, producing compounds such as carbon dioxide, alkanes, alkenes, and aldehydes. In addition, lipids are highly vulnerable to oxidation by free radicals, a process that yields peroxides, carbonyl compounds, alcohols, and lactones. The consequent rancidity, resulting from the irradiation of high-fat foods, is highly destructive to their sensory quality. To minimize such harmful effects, fatty foods must be vacuum-packaged and held at subfreezing temperatures during irradiation.

      Proteins are not significantly degraded at the low doses of radiation employed in the food industry. For this reason irradiation does not inactivate enzymes involved in food spoilage, as most enzymes survive doses of up to 10 kilograys. On the other hand, the large carbohydrate molecules that provide structure to foods are depolymerized (broken down) by irradiation. This depolymerization reduces the gelling power of the long chains of structural carbohydrates. However, in most foods some protection against these deleterious effects is provided by other food constituents. Vitamins A, E, and B1 (thiamine) are also sensitive to irradiation. The nutritional losses of a food product are high if air is not excluded during irradiation.

Safety concerns
      Based on the beneficial effects of irradiation on certain foods, several countries have permitted its use for specific purposes, such as the inhibition of sprouting of potatoes, onions, and garlic; the extension of shelf life of strawberries, mangoes, pears, grapes, cherries, red currants, and cod and haddock fillets; and the insect disinfestation of pulses, peanuts, dried fruits, papayas, wheat, and ground-wheat products.

      The processing room used for irradiation of foods is lined with lead or thick concrete walls to prevent radiation from escaping. The energy source, such as a radioactive element or a machine source of electrons, is located inside the room. (Radioactive elements such as 60Co are contained in stainless steel tubes. Because an isotope cannot be switched on or off, when not in use it is lowered into a large reservoir of water.) Prior to the irradiation treatment, personnel vacate the room. The food to be irradiated is then conveyed by remote means into the room and exposed to the radiation source for a predetermined time. The time of exposure and the distance between the radiation source and the food material determine the irradiation treatment. After treatment, the irradiated food is conveyed out of the room, and the radioactive element is again lowered into the water reservoir.

      Large-scale studies conducted around the world have concluded that irradiation does not cause harmful reactions in foods. In 1980 a joint committee of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that an overall average dose of radiation of 10 kilograys was safe for food products. The maximum energy emitted by 60Co and 137Cs is too low to induce radioactivity in food. The energy output of electron-beam generators is carefully regulated, and the recommended energy outputs are too low to cause radioactivity in foods.

      Because packaging helps to control the immediate environment of a food product, it is useful in creating conditions that extend the storage life of a food. Packaging materials commonly used for foods may be classified as flexible (paper, thin laminates, and plastic film), semi-rigid (aluminum foil, laminates, paperboard, and thermoformed plastic), and rigid (metal, glass, and thick plastic). Plastic materials are widely used in food packaging because they are relatively cheap, lightweight, and easy to form into desired shapes.

      The selective permeability of polymer-based materials to gases, such as carbon dioxide and oxygen, as well as light and moisture, has led to the development of modified-atmosphere packaging. If the barrier properties are carefully selected, a packaging material can maintain a modified atmosphere inside the package and thus extend the shelf life of the food product.

      Dehydrated (dehydration) foods must be protected from moisture during storage. Packaging materials such as polyvinyl chloride, polyvinylidene chloride, and polypropylene offer low moisture permeability. Similarly, packaging materials with low gas permeability are used for fatty foods in order to minimize oxidation reactions. Because fresh fruits and vegetables respire, they require packaging materials, such as polyethylene, that have high permeability to gases.

      Smart packages offer properties that meet the special needs of certain foods. For example, packages made with oxygen-absorbing materials remove oxygen from the inside of the package, thus protecting oxygen-sensitive products from oxidation. Temperature-sensitive films exhibit an abrupt change in gas permeability when they are subjected to a temperature above or below a set constant. These films change from a crystalline structure to an amorphous structure at a set temperature, causing the gas permeability to change substantially.

      Food storage is an important component of food preservation. Many reactions that may deteriorate the quality of a food product occur during storage. The nutrient content of foods may be adversely affected by improper storage. For example, a significant amount of vitamin C and thiamine may be lost from foods during storage. Other undesirable quality changes that may occur during storage include changes in colour, development of off-flavours, and loss of texture. A properly designed food storage system allows fresh or processed foods to be stored for extended duration while maintaining quality.

      The most important storage parameter is temperature. Most foods benefit from storage at a constant, low temperature where the rates of most reactions decrease and quality losses are minimized. In addition, foods containing high concentrations of water must be stored in high-humidity environments in order to prevent the excessive loss of moisture.

      Careful control of atmospheric gases, such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ethylene, is important in extending the storage life of many products. For example, in the United States and Canada the apple industry utilizes controlled-atmosphere storage facilities in order to preserve the quality of the fruit. Use of controlled atmospheres to increase the shelf life of fruits was first shown in 1819 by Jacques-Étienne Berard, a professor at the School of Pharmacy at Montpellier, Fr. The commercial development of this technique occurred more than 100 years later with the pioneering work of Franklin Kidd and Cyril West at the Low Temperature Research Station at Cambridge, Eng.

Norman Wilfred Desrosier R. Paul Singh

Additional Reading
R. MacRae, R.K. Robinson, and M.J. Sadler (eds.), Encyclopaedia of Food Science, Food Technology, and Nutrition, 8 vol. (1993); and Y.H. Hui (ed.), Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology, 4 vol. (1992), are general works that cover all aspects of the science of food. P. Fellows, Food Processing Technology: Principles and Practices (1988), is an introductory text.Marcus Karel, Owen R. Fennema, and Daryl B. Lund, Physical Principles of Food Preservation (1975), contains a quantitative description of commonly used food-processing operations. S.D. Holdsworth, Aseptic Processing and Packaging of Food Products (1992), is a comprehensive text. James M. Jay, Modern Food Microbiology, 4th ed. (1992), offers an introduction to the role of microorganisms in the food supply, covering the history of food microbiology as a science, the factors that affect microbial growth, the incidence and types of microorganisms found in foods, food preservation, and the part microorganisms play in food spoilage and related diseases. P.R. Hayes, Food Microbiology and Hygiene, 2nd ed. (1992), details the fundamentals of food microbiology and the hygienic aspects of the design and operation of food-processing equipment.C.M.D. Man and A.A. Jones (eds.), Shelf Life Evaluation of Foods (1994), examines various food commodities in terms of their shelf life and discusses methods used to study the shelf life of foods. Theodore P. LaBuza, The Shelf-Life Dating of Foods (1982), a reference book, contains information on the shelf life of numerous food products and provides approaches to mathematical prediction of the shelf life of foods.R. Paul Singh

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Universalium. 2010.

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