Heat treatment has been used on an industrial scale for over a hundred years to preserve food for human consumption, extend shelf life and secure food safety. But there is an increased interest in non-traditional preservation technologies, due to consumer demands for food products that are perceived as more natural and healthier. There is also an increased interest in lowering the environmental impact of food processing. Foods that are very heat-sensitive, for example, might need non-thermal inactivation of microorganisms.
This is the background to the emergence of processing technologies that are “gentler” or “less severe”, relying on many different methods: electric heating, pressure treatments, microwaves, radiation, ultrasound, filtration, gaseous treatments and more.
A few of these methods have reached commercial status in the food industry, but many remain experimental, or are confined to only limited types of foods. Some, for example, might only be suitable for particulate products, or non-particulate products, or products sensitive to heat, etc. Others involve complex equipment or create large energy burdens.
There are a great many opinions from manufacturers and food technologists about the pros and cons of these technologies, as well as how they can be applied to one corner or another of the food processing industry. This new guide takes an independent and neutral view of the issue, creating a valuable reference for those who are conducting their own technology evaluations. It is based on a thorough review of the published literature, as well as independent evaluations and tests run in Tetra Pak laboratories and external pilot centres.
The guide provides a practical overview and evaluation of 14 of the most prominent technologies, describing:
This technology guide is one way to increase awareness but also to raise the level of dialogue about what systems are possible and beneficial.