European research project highlights ‘novel processes’ for food industry

By Joe Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Research and development

A European research project has collated findings from packaging to preservation which it hopes will lead to the introduction of novel technologies within the food industry.

NovelQ found the number of high pressure pasteurised products on the market has increased four-fold, the first ohmic-heated products are being sold, more than 10 pulsed electrical field units have been purchased and the first five cold plasma surface disinfectors have been launched.

The five-year project, designed to stimulate innovations in novel processing and packaging, was conducted by Wageningen University and Research (WUR) food and biobased research with input from 37 universities, research organisations and industry partners.

It looked at high pressure processing (HPP) for preservation, the effect of pulsed electrical fields (PEF) on food pathogens and food quality, new packaging concepts to novel processing and solving research and development problems in the implementation of advanced heating technologies.

Central source

Ariette Matser, senior scientist at WUR food and biobased research and project co-ordinator of NovelQ, told the project was “important to bring all aspects of the research into one place.”

There was a lot of research already done but before it was all focussed on separate technologies​.

It was interesting with the novel technology to see the different stages they were at in terms of development​.

“[The research] provides the food industry with the knowledge that these processes are safe for use​.

Looking back, the project brought together all different aspects including food quality, packaging, consumer science and interaction with industry​,” she added.

When studying food packaging, the Italian and French partners looked at the effect of novel processing technologies, such as high pressure (HP) as well as microwave (MW) heating on the performances and structural integrity of several types of packaging materials.

Referring to laminated structures, the polyamide (PA) cast / polypropylene (PP) cast bilayer films were found to be the most suitable for HP pasteurisation and sterilisation… although results were to some degree dependent on the adopted lamination adhesive​,” the research said.

Slightly worse results were obtained with OPA/PP cast films, while multilayer structures made of polyester (PET)/PP were found unsuitable for HP sterilisation due to delamination phenomena​.

Tests performed on films oflinear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and of PP confirmed that these materials are capable of withstanding the HP treatment conditions, both for pasteurisation and sterilisation, without displaying significant changes or deterioration of barrier, mechanical and morphological properties​,” it added.

Industry co-operation

An Industry Advisory Platform (IAP) was created to facilitate technologies to potential users and to ensure NovelQ focused on topics important to the industry.

The IAP comprised of companies including Arla Foods, Coca-Cola Europe, General Mills, PepsiCo and Unilever who provided feedback.

Matser added: “We were very happy that the food industry in Europe were involved in the project from the large companies to the involvement of small and medium enterprises as they are all end users of the technology​.

The partners we have all have contacts outside Europe and I am sure knowledge of the novel technologies can be used outside of Europe​.”

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