Processing technique may make baby food puree safer

February 25, 2014

A study published in the Journal of Food Science shows that treatment of baby food puree with high pressure thermal sterilization (HPTS) instead of conventional thermal processing reduces the amount of furan in the product. Although levels of furan—a carcinogen resulting from heat treatment techniques, such as canning and jarring—are far below of what would cause harmful effect as determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a team of food scientists from Technische University Berlin found a way to reduce their levels even further.

The researchers used two spore strains to test the technique—Geobacillus stearothermophilus and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens—over the temperature range 90–121°C at 600 Mega Pascals (MPa). The treatments were carried out in baby food puree and ACES-buffer. The treatments at 90°C and 105°C showed that G. stearothermophilus is more pressure-sensitive than B. amyloliquefaciens. The formation of food processing contaminants (such as furan) was monitored during the sterilization process and compared to the amounts found in retorted samples of the same food.

The researchers found that the amounts of furan could be reduced 81–96% in comparison to retorting for the tested temperature pressure combination even at sterilization conditions of F0-value in 7 min. Given that the consumer groups of this food are infants and babies, the authors concluded that “reducing harmful substances, such as furan, in their daily diet is clearly an advantage given by HPTS over conventional thermal processing. The combination of a low acceptable daily intake, body weight, and the amounts of furan found in the retorted samples is quite critical. A scaling up is needed to validate these findings and help to implement this promising technology in the food industry.”