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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Nonthermal processing technologies for food

item Zhang, Howard
item Barbosa-Canovas, Gustavo -
item Balasubramaniam, V -
item Dunne, C -
item Farkas, Daniel -
item Yuan, James -

Submitted to: Complete Book
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 2010
Publication Date: February 7, 2011
Citation: Zhang, H.Q., Barbosa-Canovas, G.V., Balasubramaniam, V.M., Dunne, C.P., Farkas, D.F., Yuan, J.T. 2011. Nonthermal processing technologies for food. Malaysia: IFT Press. 640 p.

Technical Abstract: Looking forward into the future of food science/technology/engineering, in the emerging area of nonthermal processing of foods, is definitely an adventure. It is open-ended and full of uncertainties. Lessons learned from the past should always serve as a good basis for envisioning the future of this growing field, even though emerging and unexpected challenges in food processing are making the integration of what is known with what is coming difficult. This integration embraces the fascination with the new, but also addresses the responsibility demanded of scientists for accuracy of research, and proper extrapolations from the laboratory bench to the production floor, and to the marketplace where the best predictions are made. We have the tools to visualize what is coming, but it is our dreams and vision, if not our ambitions, that inspire us to go beyond what can be viewed with mathematical models and complicated algorithms. The food industry, one of the most conservative sectors in the food production chain, is experiencing to a degree never before encountered the need for change and innovation. Consumers have become much more demanding, better educated in terms of food quality and nutritional aspects, forcing producers along with regulatory agencies to search for technologies that offer better products with greater safety. Scientists and avid researchers are incorporating knowledge acquired from very different and disconnected disciplines, in order to wisely blend this research pool of information with what is commonly known in food science/food engineering domains. The outcomes have been quite unexpected, though very much welcome in regard to food quality and safety, and it is envisioned this trend will persist in the years to come. Nonthermal processing of foods has essentially meant unprecedented opportunities for the industrial sector, in providing better health and wellness for the consumer, and unforeseen new food products of excellent quality without compromising safety. The challenges surrounding these emerging technologies are immense, but the long list of interested groups in support of their development is growing in an exponential fashion. Nonthermal processing technologies are being advanced and making a significant, positive impact in the food sector. This handbook covers basic information and some of the recent developments in nonthermal processing of food, and the attempts, via predicted pathways, to identify future development in the field generated from the ingenuity and creative approach of a well trained and resourceful community. The development of nonthermal processing techniques for processing of food has resulted in an excellent balance between safety and minimal processing; between cost and superior quality; and between novel approaches and use of existing process installations to optimize resources. Nonthermal processing could be perceived as an alternative to conventional thermal processing, but this is just a small piece of the role that nonthermal processing could play in the food factory of the future. Nonthermal processing can be effectively combined with thermal processing, and interesting synergistic effects have already been identified. Other significant synergisms could be achieved by combining selected nonthermal technologies, as well as by combining these with other microbial stress factors, such as pH, water activity modifiers, and inclusion of antimicrobials and/or bacteriocins. At the same time, nonthermal processing facilitates the development of new products never envisioned before, a series of niche markets that will eventually receive wide attention in the years to come. The opportunities for such new products are countless, and most will have superb quality and very attractive prices. Nonthermal technologies can be used for decontamination, pasteurization and, in some cases, sterilization, but in all examples of use, one of the key attributes of the processed product is excellent quality, wherein most products have ‘fresh’ characteristics. There is no question that the quest for technologies capable of producing optimum quality, safe processed products has become a top priority in the world of food science and technology. Relevant factors to consider during exploration and application of these novel technologies include: kind of microorganism inactivated; number of log cycles achieved; lethal doses required for inactivation; effect on enzyme activity as related to food quality factors; finding the most attractive process combinations to maximize synergy; how quality attributes are altered; how to scale-up laboratory and pilot plant results to industrial applications; reliability of a given technology; adoption costs, such as engineering the process, initial investment, operation of the process, maintenance, and depreciation; energy savings; environmental impact; and consumer perception of the technology and products of that technology. As a final point, the search for new approaches to processing foods should be driven above all to maximize safety, quality, convenience, costs, and consumer wellness; it cannot be used to force the utilization of a given technology. Any technology must fit the needs and desires of the consumer to be successfully implemented. We have worked diligently to offer a thorough and objective overview of what nonthermal processing can offer today to the consumer and the industrial sector, what needs to be investigated further and the expected developments. We have written some chapters in this handbook, but the contributions of other authors, who come from a wide array of backgrounds and prior experience in nonthermal processing, have been instrumental in presenting a well-balanced and self-provoking document that we hope will be useful to many in academia, industry, regulatory and other governmental agencies, and foremost to all of us, the consumers, and those who interpret the impacts of science on consumers.

Last Modified: 8/25/2016
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