Pasteurization is an age-old process which had given the food processing industry the initial impetus and present day aseptic packing process is the crowning glory for the fraternity of food technologists. Thousands of liquid and semi-liquid food products are prepared to day using this technology with quality comparable to their fresh counter parts and with relatively high degree of safety. While old pasteurization process developed by Louis Pasteur was based on a temperature-time relationship that ensures destruction of pathogenic bacteria, modern day techniques have progressively brought down the time of heating with process time coming down to a few seconds minimizing chemical, physical and flavor changes due to heat. . In contrast solid foods are mostly processed using chemical fumigants which bring about destruction of undesirable infestation causing vectors. A new process developed recently claims pasteurization of even solid foods with low water activity which is now being offered for commercial application.
"A stand-alone dry goods pasturization system from pasturization specialists Buhler Barth and Log5 Corporation won a coveted Innovation Award at this week's Institute of Food Technologist's (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo, staged in Chicago, Illinois. Their Controlled Condensation Process Pasteurization (CCP) Technology pasteurizes low water activity foods such as tree nuts, peanuts, spices, grains and preserves the natural quality of the food, according to the judges. "The technology maintains thermal equilibrium by controlling pressure, temperature, surface condensation and moisture levels," stated the judges' citation. A Buhler Barth spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com at the IFT event:"The CCP system is natural involving no chemcials and can actually pasteurize in shell peanuts. Also the process involves no moisture pick up of the peanuts andtree nuts during pasteurization." In addition, the process is said to preserve the original appearance, flavour and texture of the nuts without the cooked flavour notes (of some processes). Trials have shown that it can deliver a guaranteed 5 log reduction in thesalmonella surrogate species E. faecium. The system can be installed before or after an existing (continuous belt) roaster for the production of roasted and pasteurised peanuts. A four step process, CCP involves: Conditioning or preheating close to the thermal equilibrium, equilibration to the thermal equilibrium, pasteurization and restoration or the removal of excessive surface moisture. Processing capacity can reach 20t an hour (44,000 lbs/hour). Operating costs are said to total 0.5 cents per pound processed".
Increased incidence of microbial contamination of low moisture products like walnuts, peanuts, spices, grains etc being encountered lately has been a cause of worry and probably this technology may be the answer to the need of the industry. While spices have been included in the list of commodities that can be pasteurized by using the above process, it is not clear how far they can be freed from molds which affect spices like pepper, ginger, peanuts and many others. Exports from many developing countries are often affected by reported presence of molds and toxins like Aflatoxin and with high capacity plants being offered it is worth while exploring its suitability for the purpose.