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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogens Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #397629

Research Project: Validation and Commercialization of Innovative Processing Technologies

Location: Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogens Research

Title: Radio frequency treatment of food: A review on pasteurization and disinfestation

item Bermudez-Aguirre, Luz
item Niemira, Brendan

Submitted to: Foods
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/8/2023
Publication Date: 8/15/2023
Citation: Bermudez-Aguirre, L.D., Niemira, B.A. 2023. Radio frequency treatment of food: A review on pasteurization and disinfestation. Foods. 12(16):3057.

Interpretive Summary: Radio frequency (RF) is a novel technology that can be used to inactivate pathogens in food and control pests in crops. This technology offers a fast and uniform heating in the product, considerably reducing the processing time. Based on this fact, the quality of the product is better after RF processing compared to conventional thermal processing. RF is a green, non-contact and chemical-free technology that can be easily used for food safety. Currently, the main challenges are related to the scale-up of the equipment to maintain the heating uniformity in the product. Successful scale-up of RF-based treatments would make available additional intervention options for food processors.

Technical Abstract: Background: Radio frequency (RF) is a novel thermal technology with several food processing and preservation applications. It is based on the volumetric heating generated from the product’s dielectric properties. The dielectric properties of each material are unique and a function of several factors (i.e., temperature, moisture content). The knowledge of these properties is essential in the development of RF equipment. Scope and approach: This review presents a list of dielectric properties of several foods and describes the use of RF as a novel technology for the food industry. The manuscript aims to explain the basic principles of RF and the type of available equipment. This paper includes several examples of pasteurization, fungi inactivation, and disinfestation in selected food products. Key findings and conclusions: RF has been successfully applied in the inactivation of pathogens such as Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli in low moisture (nuts, flour, seeds) and high moisture food (milk, eggs, fruit products), achieving pasteurization standards. The disinfestation of crops is possible using RF because of selective heating. This process inactivates the insects first because of different dielectric properties between the pests and the food. After RF treatment, the products’ final quality can be considerably better than conventional thermal processes. The processing time is reduced compared to traditional heating, and thermal damage to the food is minimized. The main drawback of the technology is the lack of uniform heating, mainly when the product is surrounded by a packaging material with different dielectric properties from the food.