VATIS Update Food Processing . Sep-Oct 2011

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Food Processing Sep-Oct 2011

ISSN: 0971-5649

VATIS Update Food Processing is published 4 times a year to keep the readers up to date of most of the relevant and latest technological developments and events in the field of Food Processing. The Update is tailored to policy-makers, industries and technology transfer intermediaries.

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Putting food safety on the table

Western Pacific Region member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) have adopted a far-reaching strategy to ensure the safety of the food put on the table. The Western Pacific Regional Food Safety Strategy (2011-2015) defines key actions required to improve food control systems covering the entire food chain from farm to table. It also aims to strengthen collaboration among countries and regional partners towards increased health security via improved food safety systems.

The Strategy provides countries with a structure to:

  • Improve food control and coordination throughout the food chain;
  • Devise a risk-based regulatory framework;
  • Improve availability of food safety data to better guide policy and risk analysis;
  • Develop inspection services;
  • Introduce food safety training and education; and
  • Establish the capacity to detect, assess and manage food safety incidents and emergencies.

In the Western Pacific Region, there have been food safety emergencies of international concern, such as the Ebola Reston virus in pigs, very high iodine levels in soy milk products, fish poisoning, hepatitis A associated with semi-dried tomatoes, pesticide-residue poisonings and chloropropanol contamination of soy sauce. WHO stressed the need to move towards a longer-term, integrated and sustainable approach with regards to food safety rather than planning from year to year, which is the practice in some member countries. Contact: Mr. Timothy O’Leary, Public Information Officer, World Health Organization, Regional Office for the Western Pacific, P.O. Box 2932, 1000 Manila, The Philippines. Tel: +63 (2) 528 9992; E-mail:

Bangladesh Food Safety Network launched

The Bangladesh Food Safety Network (BFSN) was officially launched at the ‘Safe Food Festival’ held in Dhaka on 15 October 2011. The day-long programme included a formal launching ceremony, where Mr. Dilip Barua, Minister for Industries, was the chief guest. BFSN developed out of a national level workshop for consumer organizations and like-minded non-government organizations (NGOs) in November 2010. The workshop addressed food safety issues impacting the citizens of Bangladesh, and sought ways to improve advocacy and consumer representation. The Food Safety Project of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is providing the technical guidance and financial support to BFSN during the important first year of operation, and helping it to establish a solid foundation.

Philippines focuses on food safety issues

In the Philippines, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) has increased budget for research and development (R&D) in food safety and healthy food programme. With food poisoning cases and outbreaks of food-borne and nutrition deficiency-related illnesses coming up unexpectedly from time to time, DA-BAR has urged more R&D with increased concentration on food safety and healthy food.

“Food safety policies must be supported and sustained by comprehensive access to recent, accurate, and scientific information,” said BAR Director Mr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar. BAR’s R&D programme has proven to be successful with an 80 per cent increase in R&D papers filed this year. This involves 126 papers filed compared with the previous year’s 70. An intensive promotion of BAR on the importance of R&D contributed to an increase in papers presented. More DA-attached agencies have also been engaging in R&D work.

DA has supported agricultural enterprises in the adoption of globally recognized food certification systems like the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) to guarantee food safety. On top of that, good food safety practices would raise the Philippines’ agricultural export revenue to discriminating markets such as the United States, Japan and Europe. Safe food preparation practices are being continuously intensified in Europe.

Japan helps Viet Nam supervise food safety

Japan has pledged a non-refundable aid of US$4.5 million to help Viet Nam improve its capacity for supervising the safety of agro-forestry-fishery food products. A project for improving the capacity for monitoring and controlling food safety was signed in Hanoi on 8 November 2011 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Viet Nam Sanitary and Phytosanitary Notification Authority and Enquiry Point (SPS Viet Nam), and the International Cooperation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) of Viet Nam. The three-year project will be carried out from 2011 to 2014. Besides SPS Viet Nam, the other project partners are the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department, the Plant Protection Department and the Veterinary Department.

Mr. Taigo Endo, JICA sanitary and phytosanitary expert, noted that while Viet Nam had created regulations on food safety, the capacity to implement them was still poor. Under the project, Japan will help Viet Nam by transferring food quality control technology and training people. Head of the MARD Agro-Forestry-Fishery Product Quality Control Department Mr. Nguyen Nhu Tiep said that the project has three major targets: improve the capacity for controlling agro-forestry-fishery products at laboratories; improve the national supervisory programme on the safety of agro-forestry-fishery food products; and enhance the capacity of cadres involved in the project.

India plans a national mission for food processing

The Indian government plans to launch a national project for the food processing industries during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2012-2017) to boost its share in the agri-business sector, Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Mr. Harish Rawat said recently. The government is contemplating to increase the share of food processing in agri-business sector from the current 11 per cent to 25 per cent, he said.

“The Indian Council for Agriculture Research is formulating a plan to establish ten agri-business planning and development units backed with technology incubators at select institutes and universities around the country,” Mr. Rawat revealed at the international summit-cum-exhibition on the food processing, agri-business and dairy sector organized by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham). The programme is to be called National Agricultural Entrepreneurship Project.

Stressing on the need to develop the infrastructure in the food processing sector, the Minister said it is time that the private sector came forward for it. “Public-private partnership (PPP) is the key to the 12th Five Year Plan objectives for the food processing industry,” he added. A study by Assocham estimated the Indian food industry to be worth Rs 8,800 billion (US$178.7 billion), and the food processing sector contributes more than half of it. The industry’s contribution is 6.3 per cent towards gross domestic product (GDP) and 13 per cent towards exports, the study said.

China launches national food safety checks

China has started nationwide food safety checks to ease concerns about the quality of milk, pork and cooking oil. The campaign includes checks on milk powder, on the use of additives and cracking down on the sale of cooking oil reprocessed from restaurant waste, according to the State Council’s Food Safety Committee (FSC). FSC is headed by Vice Premier Mr. Li Keqiang, and the creation of such a high level committee shows that the government is putting in significant effort into addressing food safety, said Ms. Berenice Voets-Berouti, who heads APCO Worldwide’s Greater China Food and Consumer Products Practice.

China recently opened a centre to offer technological support for monitoring food security risks and food safety standards. “These improvements will take time, and will need to be step by step,” said Mr. Titus Wu, a consumer industry analyst at DBS Vickers in Hong Kong, China. Packaged foods such as milk and snacks are more easily regulated, as they are usually produced by big factories and companies, he said. It is harder to regulate fresh foods that are not distributed through modern trade stores.

Pakistan’s food exports grow 38 per cent

Pakistan’s food exports in the first quarter of 2011 increased 38.51 per cent to US$993.72 million, compared with US$717.45 million during the same period a year earlier, according to the country’s Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS).

Fruit exports increased 43.13 per cent to US$ 65.28 million, compared with US$45.61 million the previous year. Vegetables exports totalled 55,507 tonnes worth US$23.34 million, up 77.26 per cent compared with 37,694 tonnes worth US$ 13.17 million the previous year. The exports of meat and meat preparations increased 38.89 per cent to US$49.81 million, compared with US$ 35.867 million in 2010.

FDuring the month of September 2011, the food exports increased 50.09 per cent year-on-year and increased 14.88 per cent over the previous month. Food exports during September grossed US$323.385 million, while exports in September 2010 and August 2011 were US$215.458 million and US$281.502 million, respectively.

Viet Nam’s seafood exports see significant increase

Viet Nam’s total seafood export turnover reached US$4.4 billion, an increase of 26.7 per cent year-on-year, reported the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). Seafood companies are trying to boost their exports in the last three months of the year, to meet the target of US$6 billion. Ca Mau province is the biggest seafood exporter in the country – around US$900 million turnover in the first nine months of 2011.

Mr. Ngo Thanh Linh, Deputy Head of Planning and Finance Division of MARD, said that since the beginning of the year, seafood export value has increased 15 per cent compared with the same period in 2010. According to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), prawn export prices increased sharply in Bac Lieu, Soc Trang and Kien Giang provinces, with farmers raking in higher profits. Pangasius (a catfish) exports also saw a significant increase.


India to go online with food business licensing

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) would be introducing online licensing system for entire the country. Under the FSS Act Rules and regulations, all the food business operators with an annual turnover of Rs 1.2 million (US$24,378) or more would need to take licence, depending upon the business falling in the central or state licensing category. Business units with annual turnover up to Rs 1.2 million will need to register with the local authorities. A process for central licensing is currently in testing phase.

Mr. V.N Gaur, CEO of FSSAI, noted that the registration of food business operators is a challenge for which regulations are required to be issued but registering authority must be within easy reach of the food business operators. A toll-free Food Safety Helpline has been put into operation at the central level, but similar facility is desirable at the level of states and union territories, he added. Mr. Gaur noted that the erstwhile Prevention of Food Adulteration Act was ineffective primarily because of diffused responsibility among the regulators. Governments of states and union territories would be required to implement schemes such as e-governance, awareness generation, training and laboratory strengthening, he said. Special focus would be on food safety plans at the level of local bodies.

China sets up food safety risk assessment centre

China has set up a government-funded national centre for food safety risk assessment in Beijing. The centre is designed to provide technological support in assessing, monitoring, issuing early warnings and communicating food security risks and food safety standards. Minister of Health Mr. Chen Zhu called the centre’s formation a key step for China in guarding food safety. According to key officials, the centre has formed more than 300 monitoring sites across China, including sites in supermarkets and markets for farm produce. Since 2010 China has established a nationwide food safety risk monitoring system, as well as a national panel of experts to assess food safety risks and a judgement commission for national food safety standards.

Republic of Korea bans antibiotics in animal feed

The Republic of Korea has banned antibiotics in animal feed, effective July 2011. The country has promised to strictly enforce the ban on the use of so-called antibiotic growth promoters in animal feed, according to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). “The new rules will enhance the safety of local meat and dairy products,” MAFF said in a statement. Since 2005, the Republic of Korea has been gradually reducing the 44 types of antibiotics it had allowed to be mixed with feed, following warnings from scientists about the side-effects of too many antibiotics in livestock. Under the revised rules, eight types of antibiotics and one antimicrobial agent will be prohibited, but veterinarians will be permitted to treat sick animals with antibiotics. MAFF said that once the ban goes into effect, checks for antibiotic residues in feed will be frequent with tough action for violators. MAFF has been monitoring residues in meat since 1991.

Thai guideline on daily amounts labelling

The Thai Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) has passed the regulation on the new nutrition labelling system that would display the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) on the front of product package. As proposed by the TFDA, the GDA nutrition labelling system will provide guidance on energy (k cal), sugar (g), fat (g) and sodium (mg), and would be mandatory for five snack foods groups under the Ministry of Public Health’s Notification No. 305 “Labelling Requirement on Certain Processed Foods”: fried or baked potato chips, fried or baked popcorn, rice crisps or extruded snacks, crackers or biscuits, and filling wafers. The regulation will become effective on 24 August 2011. The format of Thai FDA’s GDA labelling requires food labels to specify nutritional value per unit. It also requires the label to declare the recommended apportioning of the pack’s contents. Importers of the five snack groups are required to comply with new GDA labelling within 180 days after the effective date.

Stevia clears its first hurdle in India

A scientific panel for food additives at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex regulatory body that makes rules for food safety, has recommended the use of a natural sweetener from stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) in carbonated waters, soft drink concentrates, chewing gums and table-top sweeteners. The recommendations represent the first hurdle to be crossed by leading fast-moving consumer goods companies that had applied for permission for the usage of stevia in the country. The recommendations will have to be cleared first by an expert panel of FSSAI, a draft notification will then be circulated to all stakeholders before notification of the final change. The process can take eight to twelve months.

The panel has recommended up to 200 mg/kg equivalent of steviol, which is an active component in stevia, in carbonated water and soft drink concentrates. In chewing gums, the panel has recommended up to 3,500 mg/kg of steviol equivalent, while in table-top sweeteners the panel has not set an upper limit, leaving it to the discretion of the manufacturer, who will have to declare on the pack how much is being used per tablet. The panel has, however, sought clarity on the use of stevia in table-top sweeteners.

Stevia extracts are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia’s taste has a slower onset but a longer duration than that of sugar. It is an attractive natural sweetener for people who are diabetic or who prefer low sugar diets. Globally, stevia is approved as a food additive in a number of countries, including the United States, China, Japan, Mexico, France, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Israel, Malaysia, etc. The additive this year was approved by Codex Alimentarius, an international body created by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), for usage across product forms.


New technology for rapid multi-pathogen detection

A rapid, reliable method that can test for multiple pathogens simultaneously gives food-safety assurance to farmers, food processors, distributors, retailers and ultimately to the public. MultiPath System™ from Crystal Diagnostics, the United States, addresses this need. The novel technology uses liquid crystals to detect multiple harmful food-borne pathogens in a single test, offering significant time saving over most common testing methods. Crystal Diagnostics is the exclusive licensee of the liquid crystal biosensor technologies developed jointly by a research partnership between Kent State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University, both in the United States.

The new technology includes two pieces of equipment. One is a “cassette” containing five individual “cells”, two of which are control cells and three are test cells. A prepared (enriched) sample – from ground beef or lettuce, for example – is mixed with liquid crystals and an antibody or antibody cocktail for the pathogen(s) being tested. The other piece is a reader, into which the cassette is inserted. If the pathogen(s) being sought are present, the liquid crystal – aligned in the reader – will be disrupted. The reader recognizes this disruption and displays the result on an iPad or other device in less than 30 minutes. In addition to its speed, the technology offers other significant advantages. One test can detect multiple pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria and Salmonella, using the three cells. In addition, the technology very significantly reduces false positives and negatives even without the built-in protection of the two control cells.

A fish test to make food safer

Fish grown in fish farm are increasingly being fed vegetable matter, which could lead to a build-up of residual pesticides in them. While techniques known as metabolism studies are already used to test how the active ingredients in pesticides accumulate and break down in livestock and poultry, these techniques are not suitable for use with fish. A new test developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), Germany, can measure the contamination risk to fish. “First, we test whether ingestion of the feed leads to a build-up of pesticide residues in fish tissue, and we look to see which degradation products or metabolites result from the fish’s metabolic processes. Essentially, the more fat-soluble a substance is, the higher the probability of it accumulating in fish,” explains Dr. Christian Schlechtriem, a scientist at IME.

For their metabolism studies the researchers use water tanks that are two cubic metres in size. Into these tanks they place carp and rainbow trout, each weighing 300 to 500 g (both these freshwater fish are frequently bred in farms). To detect and identify pesticide residues and their metabolites, Dr. Schlechtriem and his team add a radio-labelled test material to the pellet feed. A powerful filtering system prevents the dissolved test material from accumulating in the water. The flesh of the fish is then tested for pesticide residues using highly sensitive analytical methods, which permit even the smallest quantities of a substance to be detected with certainty. Contact: Dr. Christian Schlechtriem, Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology – IME, Auf dem Aberg 1, 57392 Schmallenberg, Germany. Tel: +49 (2972) 302186; E-mail:

Litmus test of food safety

Mr. He Fangyang from the biophysics company Kwinbon, China, has developed more than 100 kinds of rapid food safety detection solutions. Milk contaminated with melamine can be detected in just three minutes by dipping Mr. He’s test paper in the milk, as two bars on the paper will turn red. Clenbuterol, the banned substance known as lean meat powder, can be detected by dipping the test paper in pig’s urine, as the test paper contains the antibodies produced in reaction to the chemical. “The raw milk we buy from dairy farmers is unsterilized, so large quantities of milk had to be tested for melamine and drug contamination before being refrigerated,” says Mr. Xu Bingyou, Laboratory Director of Sanyuan Group, a collection of State-owned agriculture and animal husbandry companies. The test paper speeds up the testing process to 10 minutes, from three to four hours, he adds.

New test can pinpoint food pathogens

In the United States, a collaborative research led by scientists at Cornell University would enable government agencies and food companies to pinpoint the exact nature and origin of food-borne bacteria with unprecedented accuracy, says Mr. Martin Wiedmann, Cornell food science professor. The standard method of tracing food-borne diseases involves breaking up the DNA of bacteria samples into smaller pieces and analysing their banding patterns. However, different strains of bacteria have common DNA fingerprints, making correct identification difficult.

By sequencing the genome of 47 samples of the bacteria, Mr. Wiedmann and his team were able to rapidly discriminate between outbreak-related cases and non-outbreak related cases, isolating four samples believed to be connected to the pepper contamination of 2009 by Salmonella. The team developed a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) test that is specific to the 2009 pepper-associated outbreak with the help of researchers at Life Technologies Corp. They also collaborated with researchers at Washington State University and health departments of New York City and New York State.

Rapid detection of E. coli that produces Shiga toxin

DuPont Qualicon, the United States, has introduced the BAX® System STEC Suite, which enables food processors and laboratories to detect rapidly and reliably the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), most frequently associated with severe food-borne illnesses. This suite of food safety tests was developed in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The BAX System screening detects a combination of virulence genes to cost effectively and quickly clear negative samples in the production line.

Food processing companies can use the BAX System to detect pathogens or other organisms in raw ingredients, finished products and environmental samples. The automated system uses leading-edge technology to detect Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, Campylobacter, Vibrio and more. With certifications and regulatory approvals in the Americas, Asia and Europe, the BAX System is recognized as one of the most advanced pathogen testing system available today.

Fast test for algal toxin food poisoning

Food scientists in Japan have reported the development of a fast, reliable new test that could help people avoid food poisoning that arises from eating fish tainted with a difficult-to-detect toxin from marine algae growing in warm waters. Mr. Takeshi Yasumoto and colleagues from Tohoku University explain that 20,000-60,000 people every year come down with ciguatera poisoning from eating fish tainted with a ciguatoxin, the most common source of food poisoning from a natural toxin.

Fish, such as red snapper and sea bass, get the toxin by eating smaller fish that feast on marine algae that produce the toxin in tropical and subtropical areas. There is nothing to warn that a fish has the toxin – it smells, looks and tastes normal. But within hours of ingesting the toxin, people with ciguatera have symptoms that often include vomiting, diarrhoea, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs and muscle and joint aches. Debilitating symptoms may last for months. The current test for the toxin is to feed laboratory mice with specimen and observe them for symptoms. It is time-consuming and inaccurate.

The new test from Mr. Yasumoto’s group uses standard laboratory instruments. The team proved the effectiveness of the test by identifying 16 different forms of the toxin in fish from the Pacific Ocean. They also identified 12 types of toxin in a marine alga in French Polynesia, which could be the primary toxin source. The researchers say that the method outperforms current detection methods and in addition to helping diagnose patients, it will also help scientists study how the toxins move through the food chain from one animal to another.


Advanced textured vegetable protein ingredient

Solbar, an Israel-based global producer of soy proteins, has launched Supertex, promoted as the latest innovation in textured vegetable protein products. Supertex is a specially extruded blend of soy-derived, textured vegetable protein suitable for use in a variety of vegetarian and meat-enhancement applications. The product is a blend of high-quality, all-vegetable source ingredients, processed via the twin-screw extruder method. The blend’s proteins form a configuration that, upon exit from the extruder, expands into a fibrous structure with the texture characteristic of meat.

The juicy, meat-like vegetarian option with excellent textural and chewing qualities has superior water-holding capacity. The product has a neutral taste and pale colour that manufacturers can customize to fit any number of flavour profiles and identities. “The major advantage of the product is that it is easy to work with,” notes Mr. David Kraus, Solbar’s Global Applications Manager. He characterizes Supertex as “an easy and reliable all-in-one solution for vegetarian and meat applications.”

Unique antioxidant from tomato plants

Antioxidants have beneficial health properties, such as helping to prevent coronary heart disease and cancer. A new natural antioxidant synthesised by tomato plants has been found to be 14 times as potent as resveratrol, the wonder compound and antioxidant in red wine. Researchers from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMCP) in Spain have identified the previously unknown compound. This substance could have multiple applications, such as in the food industry as a preservative and in the cosmetic industry as a skin care product ingredient. It could also be used as a supplement to functional products.

IBMCP researchers point out that the antioxidant is also 4.5 times more potent than vitamin E and 10 times more potent than vitamin C. “Many phenolic compounds are produced by plants in response to biotic or abiotic stress. These compounds have multiple effects, including antioxidant activity,” said IBMCP Director Dr. Vicente Conejero. Biotic stress results from damage done to plants by other living organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, as well as beneficial and harmful insects, according IBMCP.

Potato waste could offer new food ingredients

Researchers in Denmark have developed a process that uses potato waste for the extraction of rhamnogalacturonan I (RG-I), a pectic polysaccharide that can be used to produce new ingredients and functional hydrocolloids. Previous research showed potato fibre to be especially rich in RG-I. However, it cannot be isolated by traditional industrial extraction procedures, which are often performed at low pH that will degrade the RG-I molecule. To extract RG-I, the research team subjected the potato waste to enzymatic starch removal using purified Termamyl, enzymatic RG-I solubilization using a highly purified polygalacturonase, and finally purification employing depth filtration and ultrafiltration.

The RG-I extracted by the team led by Mr. Peter Ulvskov from University of Copenhagen was found to be in its native, intact form. It had high molecular weight and a monosaccharide composition similar to RG-I extracted by laboratory analytical extraction procedures. None of the functional properties of RG-I were lost, making it more suitable for further modifications and tailoring to suit specific desired pectic properties such as stabilizing and gelling capabilities, and as viscosity aid, among others.

Yeast cells coaxed to add vitamins to bread

Bread that contains vital nutrients could help combat severe malnutrition in impoverished regions. That is the goal of a group of undergraduate students in Johns Hopkins University, the United States, who are using synthetic biology to enhance common yeast to yield beta carotene that turns into vitamin A when eaten. In the project, called VitaYeast, Mr. Arjun Khakhar, a junior biomedical engineering major, and other team members targeted an enhanced starter dough that could be shared easily and cheaply among large groups of people to make bread. Yeast does not normally produce vitamins: to make it happen, the students added certain DNA sequences to yeast cells and triggered a series of biochemical reactions that produced beta carotene.

The VitaYeast project students purchased a bread-making machine, found a simple recipe online and baked bread, substituting vitamin A yeast for the normal dry packaged yeast in the dough. The bread, team member Ms. Steffi Liu said, “looks exactly the same as normal bread”. Because the new bread contains a genetically engineered ingredient that has not been safety-tested or approved by government regulators, the students were not permitted to eat it. But the product had a tempting aroma and typical bread-like texture and appearance.

New process for corn fibre gum extraction

A new process to isolate corn fibre gum and preserve more of its functional components may contribute to better emulsifying properties, say researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The new technique is a further step in expanding the uses of corn fibre gum, which has the potential to eventually replace gum arabic, the supply of which is getting unreliable, as an emulsifying agent in the food and beverage industry.

The researchers, led by Dr. Madhav Yadav from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), said that the new extraction process preserves more of the corn’s functional components such as proteins and lipids, and will help produce a corn fibre gum with better emulsifying properties. The team investigated the extraction of corn fibre gum with alkaline hydrogen peroxide using different combinations of alkali concentration and time to identify the optimum conditions to retain its functional groups (protein, lipids and phenolic acids). The results “clearly indicate” that to preserve such functional components, corn fibre gum has to be extracted with a low alkali concentration and a short heating time at 100°C in presence of hydrogen peroxide.


Plasma treatment for food preservation

It is difficult to treat fresh produce in comparison to things like milk that can be treated by pasteurization and heat. The traditional approach is to wash the produce in chlorine. Now, a new project called Safebag is developing a technology to help keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer by inactivating microbes on the food, says Dr. P.J. Cullen from the School of Food Science and Environmental Health, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. The project – which also has the participation of National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology of Dublin City University, the Irish food company Nature’s Best Ltd. as well as other international partners – is looking to develop an alternative that uses plasma to treat the produce within the package.

The food packaged in any type of plastic is passed through a dielectric discharge – two electrodes of high voltage. “So we create and use a plasma within the bag for a very short period of time, and we make active species within the bag, which inactivate the bacteria. And then convert after a period back into the original gas,” explains Dr. Cullen. The goal is to reduce microbes that could ultimately contribute to spoilage, but the project also wants to ensure that the technology does not negatively affect the nutritional properties or the taste of the fruit and vegetables themselves.

Vapour of citrus essential oils

The University of Northampton, the United Kingdom, is patenting a vapour of a blend comprising the oil of orange (Citrus sinensis) and the oil of bergamot (Citrus bergamia), a process for its preparation and its use as an antimicrobial. The vapour has been found to be particularly useful on food contaminated with micro-organisms without affecting the sensory properties of the food. The vapour of the blend of citrus essential oils has antimicrobial action against a range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains. It is also active against bacterial spores. The vapour acts on surfaces including those of fresh food produce to reduce contamination by pathogens.

The two essential oils are present in the blend in a ratio of 1:1 by volume. In an embodiment, the vapour comprises the following components: methanol, ethanol, acetone, isopropanol, fluoroacetic acid amine, trimethylsilyl fluoride, dimethylsilanediol, 3-heptanone, butylacetate, n-octanal, p-cymene, alpha-pinene, alpha-phellandrene, limonene, camphene, thujene, beta pinene, myrcene, carene, nonanal, nonanol, citral, linalool, bergamol, 1-fluorododecane and linalyl isobutyrate. The vapour is effective at a range of temperatures – for example, temperatures ranging from 25° to 50°C. Thus, the vapour may also be useful as an antimicrobial in greenhouses.

The process comprises heating the blend comprising the oil of orange and the oil of bergamot. The blend may be heated to a temperature of around 30°C to 50° C for a period of 10 minutes to 20 minutes, but preferably for 15 minutes. The vapour is used during the processing, packaging and/or storing of the foodstuff. The foodstuff may be subjected to the vapour for a period sufficient to have an antimicrobial effect on the foodstuff, for example, about 30 seconds to about 1 hour, but typically from 30 seconds to 1 minute. The vapour is antimicrobial against bacteria such as Enterococcus faecium, E. faecalis, Arcobacter butzleri, Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium difficile and Staphylococcus aureus. It is also effective against fungi such as Penicillium chrysogenum, Aspergillus niger and Alternaria alternata.

Food preservation compositions

Food products such as meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables are typically stored and sold in a supporting tray that is over-wrapped by a transparent plastic film. These food products generally produce an exudate, which can promote the growth of microbes. In general, to avoid the uncontrolled accumulation of exuded fluids from the food products, an absorbent pad is placed in the supporting tray. A disadvantage of absorbent pads is that they have a low absorbency and they do not retain moisture under pressure. In addition, these pads tend to break up in use so that paper and the contents of the pad may adhere to the food and leakage may occur from the packages.

It would be therefore desirable to have a food preservation composition having improved absorbency properties, that prevents or reduces the growth of microbial agents in food products not only in the exudate but also on the surface of the food product to prolong the shelf-life of the food product. Maxwell Chase Technologies, the United States, has patented certain food preservation compositions comprising an absorbent material and an antimicrobial agent. The antimicrobial agent can be a volatile, non-volatile or their combination. The compositions are effective in reducing or preventing microbial growth in food storage, and are easy to handle so that it can be incorporated into a variety of food storage articles.

The absorbent composition is composed of at least one water-absorbing polymer, one mineral composition, and one water-soluble salt having at least one trivalent cation. Examples of water-absorbing polymers include carboxymethylcellulose, hydroxyethylcellulose, methylcellulose, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, gelatinized starches, gelatin, dextrose and gums. The mineral composition is generally any material that is porous and traps water but does not swell like the water-absorbing polymer. Clays such as attapulgite, montmorillonite, bentonite, hectorite, sericite, kaolin, diatomaceous earth and silica are suitable materials. The salt used in the absorbent composition could be a water-soluble salt such as aluminium sulphate and potassium aluminium sulphate.


Pouching and canning tender coconut water

In India, the Coconut Development Board (CDB) and Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) have jointly developed the technology for packaging tender coconut water in pouches as well as aluminium cans. Tender coconut water is first filtered through pressure filters, then mixed with sugar and other additives, and concentrated to the appropriate level. The beverage is then packed in pouches/cans and retorted in an autoclave, after which it is cooled in a stream of cold water. The process helps retain the flavour of packed tender coconut water for three months at room temperature and for six months under refrigerated conditions.

Processing and packaging tender coconut water at a capacity of 10,000 nuts per day will need an investment of Rs 350,000 to Rs 400,000 for plant, machinery and working capital. The plant will need a staff of 30 and the profitability works out to be around 20 per cent with a payback period of 3 years, according to CDB. The technology is offered by CDB, and financial assistance is available to potential Indian entrepreneurs from the Technology Mission on Coconut. Contact: Coconut Development Board, P.B. No. 1021, Kera Bhavan, SRVHS Road, Kochi 682 011, Kerala, India. Fax: +91 (484) 237 7902; E-mail:; Website:

Bacteria-killing food packaging solution

Researchers in Canada are using phages, which are harmless viruses that can kill bacteria, to target and eliminate food-borne pathogens present on the surface of ready-to eat (RTE) and raw meats. The new packaging approaches by Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network researchers Mr. Hany Anany and Mr. Mansel Griffiths from University of Guelph are employing phage to kill specific pathogens, including Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes, that could be present on the surface of foods.

Phage use has received regulatory approval of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe for certain food products. Health Canada too has issued a letter of no objection for the use of phage. An immobilized phage can take over the L. monocytogenes and/or E. coli O157:H7 bacterial cell and produce new copies of itself inside the cell. On reaching critical levels, the phage breaks open the bacterial cell to destroy it, thus not allowing the pathogen to multiply on food surface.

Sentinel researchers stick phage onto cellulose material and when foods (ready-to-eat meats, raw meats, etc.) are wrapped in the package, the pathogens are killed by phage on the packaging. This packaging works in refrigeration temperatures at which pathogens can still grow. It can be used for modified atmosphere- and vacuum-packaged meats. Paper-based approach (bioactive paper) offers one of the best solutions for food safety because of their low-cost, simplicity and rapid response time.

Intelligent packaging to detect spoiled food

Oxygen promotes food spoiling processes such as microbial growth and protein decomposition. Hence, a newly developed sensor that changes colour in the presence of oxygen would be useful in the food packaging industry, according to its inventors in the United Kingdom. The sensor turns blue in excess oxygen, indicating to the consumer that the food should be thrown away. The simplicity of the colour change sensor developed by Mr. Andrew Mills and co-researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast, is that the package’s integrity is visible to the consumer and the device is cheap enough for commercial use.

The sensor, which is made of titanium nanoparticles coated with methylene blue dye and sacrificial electron donor DL-threitol, is activated for use by photobleaching with ultraviolet A radiation. After the photobleaching stage, the sensor will only turn blue in the presence of oxygen: this process can be recycled, but only by repeating the photoactivation stage. By incorporating this technology into food packaging, huge volumes of food waste could be prevented, claims Mr. Mills.

Self-repairing, transparent oxygen barrier film

At the Research Centre for Compact Chemical System of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan, Mr. Takeo Ebina and others from the Advanced Functional Materials Team have developed a transparent film with a high oxygen gas barrier property. AIST has been developing Claist®, a film material with clay as the principal constituent, and working to put it to practical use. In the present research in collaboration with Daiwa Can Company, the researchers fabricated a transparent film with a high gas barrier property by applying a mixed paste of a type of hydrophilic clay and a water soluble plastic on a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film. In addition to the flexibility of the gas barrier layer, the film self-repairs pin holes caused by deformation because it absorbs water vapour in air and swells. Accordingly, the oxygen gas barrier property of the film deteriorates less easily than conventional products when it is damaged.

AIST has established the technology to apply the paste quickly onto a film by printing and succeeded in the production of rolls 50 cm in width. The developed film is promising as a food packaging film since the polypropylene layer on the film makes it easy for bags to be made and to print letters on its surface. Combinations of various types of clay and plastics were examined. Mixing a type of hydrophilic clay and a water-soluble plastic in certain formula and coating it on PET film provided a gas barrier film with good cohesion and transparency.

In general, the oxygen barrier property of conventional gas barrier films deteriorates when they are folded or roughly handled. However, the developed film has been verified by Gelbo Flex test that its oxygen gas barrier property does not deteriorate easily, even in comparison with vacuum-deposited films and commercial gas barrier layer coated films. The oxygen gas barrier property of the film in dry condition was about 0.1 cc/m2. day.atm and it was sufficient for food package materials. The film shows total light transmittance of about 90 per cent and excellent resistance to folding. Letters and figures can be printed clearly on the gas barrier layer and bags can be easily manufactured.

Protein-filled polymer composites for packaging

Researchers at Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Czech Republic, have described the preparation of biodegradable polymer composites filled with protein hydrolysate (HP), a proteinaceous biomaterial isolated from chrome-tanned solid leather waste through enzymatic hydrolysis. Metallocene linear low density polyethylene (mLLDPE) was the synthetic polymer used to prepare the plastic/protein composites by means of melt mixing. The study, led by Ms. Nabanita Saha, also reports about the effect of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on polymer morphology, physico-chemical structure and biodegradation of protein-filled polymeric material. Morphological studies performed on fractured surfaces of composites showed uniform and fine HP particles dispersion, which implies complete blending of mLLDPE and HP, and exhibited the effect of UV on polymer morphology as well as on its biodegradation. This modified polymeric material demonstrated a reasonably good biodegradability with a UV-untreated sample contrary to UV-treated one. Contact: Ms. Nabanita Saha, Centre of Polymer Systems, Polymer Centre, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Nám. T. G. Masaryka 5555, 760 01 Zlin, Czech Republic. E-mail:

Whey for packaging food

WheyLayer project – begun three years ago as an industry-driven, research and development project sponsored by the European Commission – is ending on a successful note. The purpose of the project was to develop a suitable whey protein-based packaging replacement barrier film layer for non-recyclable, synthetic-based film products. The WheyLayer film, that the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (Fraunhofer IVV), Germany, developed had to provide both an oxygen barrier and water vapour barrier similar to its synthetic counterpart; it also had to be biodegradable. The formulations also had to be best suited for achieving barrier property specifications of less than 20 cm3/m2.d bar for oxygen (23°C, 50 per cent RH) and less than 50g/m3.d for water vapour permeation (23°C, 85 to 0 per cent RH) for proteins on polymer film substrates.

Innovació i Recerca Industrial i Sostenible (IRIS), a Spanish engineering group and partner in the project, is tasked with scaling up Fraunhofer IVV’s laboratory-level process to an industrial level and integrating the material in an industrial coating system. The WheyLayer material is laminated with a polymer substrate such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), oriented polypropylene (OPP) or polylactic acid (PLA). In terms of recycling, the WheyLayer barrier coating can be dissolved completely without harming the substrate, making it easy for recyclers to reclaim the substrate.

Recent research found that whey acts as a good moisture barrier with acceptable mechanical integrity. Further, the use of the whey-layer coating on plastic films improves the recyclability and reuse of the plastic layer because the whey protein can easily be removed chemically or by using enzymes. Since whey proteins as raw materials for coatings show a wide spectrum of properties, extensive tests on chemical, physical and functional characteristics were performed on select, commercially available whey protein isolates (WPIs) and whey protein concentrates (WPCs). Processing properties of whey protein products, in general, improved with increasing protein purity.

WPIs from both sweet whey and sour whey were produced in a pilot scale using a combined ultra- and micro-filtration process. The process produced WPIs with protein contents of 95.9 per cent d.m. for sweet whey and 92.9 per cent d.m. for sour whey. Missing protein properties for an excellent WheyLayer coating were introduced by elaborating formulations with additives like plasticizers (glycerol, sorbitol, polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol). After further research and testing for rheological behaviour, film-forming properties and water resistance, two formulations achieved the required properties, and were selected as first-coating materials on polymer substrates.

Biodegradable packaging

Roidec India Chemicals Pvt. Ltd, India, claims to have developed a bio-degradable product, which could be the answer to some of the problems of the packaging industry. The product was developed using a water-based elastomer and natural oil to replace “environmentally unfriendly” plastic packaging of confectionary products and snack items. Roidec said its starch-based vegetable polyurethane chemical could even be used for producing cheaper and bio-degradable water bottles. The company said the product has been certified by the Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology and the Indian Institute of Packaging.

Versatile, high-speed candy wrapping machine

BVK1200, from Bosch Packaging India, is an all-inclusive and highly efficient machine for a wide range of packaging needs, styles and budgets for the confectionery industry. The machine features a large feeding disc for gentle product handling and for ensuring a reliable product infeed even at 1,200 pieces/minute. Additionally, the servo-controlled film drives secures an exact print mark control and controls the packaging length. The machine’s packaging styles include tight single or multi unit packs. It can pack candies which are high-boiled, deposited, formed, filled and unfilled, and pressed products. It can pack products that are round, oval, square, rectangular and spherical.

In BVK1200, the power consumption is reported to be much lesser than in comparable machines because of the unique heat transfer, low-friction drive technology and a minimum of driven parts. Further, the elimination of unnecessary motors also means that less spare parts are required. The preheating time before production is very short, which also saves resources and time. Unproductive time is minimized by quick change over of changes parts, as well as very low maintenance time and requirement.

The patented cross-sealing unit, with backlash-free frame, guarantees excellent sealing seams and an outstanding lifespan. Sealing temperature is constantly readjusted during production within tolerance, eliminating the need for pre-heating and achieving an optimal sealing temperature. The optional splicing system reduces the downtime for film changes during production. Further, most options in BVK1200 can be activated via simple setting procedures via an intuitive human machine interface, offering user a flexibility that in turn allows for considerably shorter changeover times.


Sustainable grain-drying equipment

Renewed emphasis on environment friendliness and integration in grain farming has led to considerable progress in the development of sustainable grain drying technologies to help farmers and stakeholders enhance product quality and reduce costs. The product line from Suncue International Marketing, Taiwan Province of China, includes ventilating and circulating-type grain dryers, far-infrared type dryers, and peripheral equipment such as pre-cleaner, corn sheller, chain conveyor, bucket elevator and moisture meter.

Suncue also manufactures patented SB-series husk furnaces that can use rise husk to produce thermal energy for the dryers. SB-series husk furnace uses an indirect hot air system, which means that clean hot air is being used to dry the grains to avoid contamination. It has a design that allows the furnace to automatically feed husk, discharge ash and control the hot air temperature and volume in every dryer. Suncue’s rice husk furnaces have been proven to reduce fuel costs by up to 75 per cent and have passed strict air pollution standards of Japan and Taiwan Province of China. In addition, the SB-series also uses resources such as husk, wood chips, coconut shells and corn cobs as fuel to produce thermal energy for the dryers.

Self-cleaning dough maker

Bakers who make éclairs from pastry dough make the dough using a special manually operated machine. Once made, the dough must be used at once; otherwise, micro-organisms will work to ensure that it does not rise when baked. The baker also has to disassemble the machine and clean it thoroughly before it is ready for the next batch of dough – a tedious process. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB), Germany, have developed a dough machine that automatically cleans itself after each batch of dough, without any need to disassemble the system. “The dough we make with the machine is also sterile that it remains fresh comparatively long,” explains IGB group manager Mr. Alexander Karos, pointing out yet another benefit.

The researchers have already developed a prototype of the machine and commissioned it in an industry partner‘s operation. They had to design the machine to be free of corners and edges where dirt can become trapped. The spraying of cleaning agents in series also had to be a coordinated and optimized in terms of the type of agent and its concentration, exposure time and temperature. “To make sure the system really is clean after the cleaning procedure is complete, the last rinse water is automatically tested for proteins, fats, carbohydrates and residues of cleaning agent,” Mr. Karos explains. Contact: Mr. Alexander Karos, Manager, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology – IGB, Nobelstr. 12, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany. Tel: +49 (711) 970 3564; Fax: +49 (711) 970 3994.

Laser makes sure food is fresh

Many food products are packaged in a protective gas – usually, carbon dioxide or nitrogen – to extend their shelf-life. The presence of oxygen leads to oxidization, bacteria growth and decay. However, no plastic packaging is 100 per cent airtight. How easily oxygen can enter depends on both the material and how well sealed the packaging is. “It has been shown that part-baked bread, for example, doesn’t always meet the mark”, says Dr. Annika Olsson, Professor of Packaging Logistics at Lund University.

Currently, there is no reliable method to check whether the packaging has the correct gas content. Researchers in atomic physics and packaging logistics at Lund University in Sweden have developed a novel laser instrument that could address this problem. “It will be the first non-destructive method. This means that measurements can be taken in closed packaging and the gas composition over time can be checked,” explains the developer of the technique Dr. Märta Lewander, Chief Technical Officer of Gasporox AB, a company set up by the Lund University’s Division of Atomic Physics.

The new technology can measure through almost all packaging materials. As long as light passes through, the new technique can measure, says Dr. Lewander. By shining a laser beam into the packaging and studying the light that comes back, it is possible to see if the composition of the gas is correct. A handheld detector measures the light that comes out of the packaging and sends a signal to a computer for analysis. Contact: Dr. Märta Lewander, Chief Technical Officer, Gasporox AB, Magistratsvägen 10, SE 22643 Lund, Sweden. Tel: +46 (702) 951113; E-mail:

Artificial vision for fruit inspection

Scientists at the Valencia Institute of Agrarian Research (IVIA), Spain, have created a machine that detects and separates rotten oranges, another that classifies mandarin segments according to their quality and another that helps citrus fruit pickers out in the field. All prototypes use computer vision to automatically inspect the fruits. Mr. José Blasco, a researcher at the IVIA and a member of the team that patented the machine explains that in collaboration with a company in this sector, they have developed software and hardware that can locate rotten citrus fruits and discard those that are not fit for sale. IVIA scientists have developed a series of techniques that allow a computer to be programmed so that it “understands” an image and acts accordingly.

One of the machines developed classifies, under visible light, citrus fruits according to their quality, colour and the type of damage on the skin. The analysis is carried out at a speed of 15-20 pieces per second. The researchers also developed a device that automates the inspection of mandarin segments. The segments separated on a vibrating platform are transported on a conveyor belt for inspection at the rate of 28 segments per second. Broken segments are separated from whole ones, and those with pips are separated from those with pips. Skin and any other foreign bodies are also identified and eliminated from the production line.

Mr. Blasco explains that besides statistical and computing techniques, the prototypes use “the highest image resolution that modern equipment can achieve”. The machines are capable of analysing objects in the ultraviolet and infrared light bands. “We have even started to inspect the internal quality of fruit using magnetic imaging resonance (MRI), computerized axial tomography (CAT) and X-rays,” he adds. One of the latest investigations focuses on the use of hyperspectral imaging, which collects and processes data from a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum and provides individual spectral measurements for each pixel. This method can be applied as a way of identifying chemical compounds whose concentrations can change as the fruit ripens or rots. Therefore, it is possible to predict the perfect time to eat the fruit or to track the evolution of a disease in the fruit.

Rotary mixer cuts time and degradation of tea blend

When Choice Organic Teas was founded in 1989 by Granum Inc., the United States, it was using a food-grade, modified cement mixer to blend tea. During the blending process, the mixer had to be stopped and opened several times, both to add flavouring and to address unblended areas, which significantly slowed the blending process. Long mixing cycles degraded the delicate tea leaves, while frequent stoppages and low capacity meant that the yield of 109 kg of blended organic tea cost the loss of one workday.

The company eventually replaced its blender with a MX15-SS mini rotary batch mixer of 425 litres capacity from Munson Machinery Co., the United States. The stainless steel Munson blender uses a gravity-driven mixing process, which employs internal mixing flights that produce a tumble-turn-cut-fold mixing action. The processor runs the mixer continuously for 15 to 20 minutes per batch to prevent stratification of ingredients throughout loading and final discharge with no residuals.

Weights per batch of tea range from 68 to 136 kg. Some blends have only two or three ingredients, while others require 10 to 12. Internal spray system built into the mixer allow for a wide and even spray of natural flavours, and cleaning the blender between batches. Contact: Mr. Steve Knauth, Munson Machinery Co., 210 Seward Ave., Utica, NY 13502, United States of America. Tel: +1 (315) 797 0090; E-mail:


Processed Meats: Improving Safety, Nutrition and Quality

This publication is a wide-ranging guide to the processed meats market and industry. Part one explores consumer demands and trends, legislative issues, key aspects of food safety and the use of sensory science in product development, etc. Part two examines the role of ingredients, as well as the formulation of products with reduced levels of salt and fat. Part three discusses meat products’ processing, taking in the role of packaging and refrigeration alongside emerging areas such as high pressure processing and novel thermal technologies. Chapters on quality assessment and the quality of particular types of products are also included.

Contact: Woodhead Publishing Limited, No. 80 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge, CB22 3HJ, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (1223) 499140 Fax: +44 (1223) 832819; E-mail:

Post-harvest Biology and Technology of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits: Volume 1

This four-volume publication reviews essential aspects of post-harvest biology, post-harvest technologies, handling and processing technologies for fruits. Volume 1 on “Fundamental Issues” provides an overview of key factors associated with the post-harvest quality of tropical and subtropical fruits. Two introductory chapters cover the economic importance of these crops and their nutritional benefits. Chapters reviewing the post-harvest biology of fruits and the impact of pre-harvest conditions, harvest circumstances and post-harvest technologies on quality follow. The authors review microbiological safety, the control of decay and quarantine pests and the role of biotechnology in the improvement of produce. Two chapters on the processing of tropical and subtropical fruit complete the volume.

Contact: Woodhead Publishing Limited, No. 80 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge, CB22 3HJ, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (1223) 499140 Fax: +44 (1223) 832819; E-mail:


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