The challenge of preventing foods from spoiling isn’t a new one. In fact, some researchers say that food processing is as old as humanity itself. Whether the food makers of the past were cooking meat to halt bacterial growth, freezing meals to stall breakdown from enzymes, or fermenting products with the help of beneficial bacteria, many food processing methods have been discovered and refined over the centuries.
As early as the 1940s, new breakthroughs in food technology saw the advent of whole new processed foods made with artificial preservatives. These new preservatives carried antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, and helped extend the shelf-life of products in ways that had never been seen before.
Even with all of these new developments, there’s still an important need for new methods in food processing. Today, customers are demanding natural ingredients and preservatives, as well as higher nutritional value from their products. They want delectable flavours, enjoyable mouthfeel, and top health benefits from their foods—and fortunately, food industry professionals are ready to deliver.
Read on to discover some of the newest natural food processing methods currently being investigated, and what they mean for future food industry professionals.
High Pressure Processing Shows Promise for Pasteurising Plant-Based Foods
Many common food processing methods used today can drastically change a food’s texture, flavour, colour, and nutritional value. In some cases, the effects might be mild, such as when milk is pasteurised. However, in other cases, processing can reduce a food’s appeal.
Fruits and vegetables are often vulnerable to the effects of processing. Fortunately, studies in food production have begun to uncover new ways to process plant-based foods that keeps them both safe and appealing. For example, one new pasteurisation method that’s being investigated is called High Pressure Processing (HPP). HPP uses pressure instead of heat to pasteurise foods. They are kept refrigerated at cool temperatures, and are exposed to pressures ranging from 43,500 – 116,000 psi. This destroys harmful bacteria without greatly impacting covalent bonds, leading to a tastier and more nutritious final product.
Recent Studies in Food Production Point to the Benefits of High Altitude Cooking
Another potential new breakthrough in food processing could also help processed foods both taste and look their best. At Nestle, new food industry studies have begun to explore the effects that altitude has on cooking. Researchers cooked a simple vegetable broth in three different environments. One at a high altitude, another at sea level, and a third was placed under high pressure. The results they discovered were promising. They found that the broth cooked at a high altitude boasted better colour and flavour compared to the others.
As a result, the food makers of the future might soon opt for cooking foods at higher altitudes under lower atmospheric pressure, rather than for artificial flavours and colours used to compensate for taste lost during processing.
Essential Oils Might Hold the Key to Food Industry Studies in Natural Preservatives
One of the biggest challenges that research and development professionals are tackling is how to properly substitute artificial preservatives for natural options. Fortunately, there’s one promising option currently being researched, and it may improve flavour too.
Essential oils made from herbs and spices have recently become a hot topic in food production. This is because researchers have discovered that many of them boast antibacterial and antioxidant properties. In a recent study, researchers found that cheese treated with essential oils of clove, oregano and grape seed—among several others—showed slower lipid oxidation when left at room temperature.
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