J. Peter Clark

With the Annual Meeting Scientific Program broken out according to tracks, it is easy to identify sessions that might be worth attending for those with an interest in food processing and food engineering. Here, I will preview some that caught my attention. While the Food Expo demands most attendees’ attention, it is worthwhile to slip away now and then to catch up on the underlying science of our profession. The posters and some other sessions are on or near the Expo floor and take place from Tuesday, June 26, through Thursday, June 28.

The processing programming preview that follows groups sessions of interest by topic area.

Thermal and Nonthermal Processing Technologies
In Session 67, “Nonthermal Hurdle Technologies: Food Safety and Quality Aspects,” which will take place from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, participants will be provided with a topical overview of past and present findings for HHP-, PEF-, ozone-, and irradiation-based hurdle technologies related to food safety and food quality, their pros and cons, and fields of application for diverse commodities. Process-specific parameters for the different treatment methods featured in the combined approaches—for instance, pressure, time, temperature, energy input, electric field strength, and irradiation dosage—will be discussed, as well as environmental or product parameters, such as the reduction of the microbial load and achievable shelf-life stability, retention of the nutritional content, enzymatic activity, sensory attributes, and possible changes of physico-chemical characteristics.

Session 101, a panel discussion titled “Overcoming Challenges of Temperature Measurement for Novel Thermal and Nonthermal Food Processes,” will begin at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 27. Novel thermal processes, such as microwave sterilization and ohmic heating, as well as nonthermal processing technologies, such as high pressure processing and pulsed electric field treatment of foods, offer unique opportunities and challenges to the food industry. This panel will discuss the current developments and research needs for temperature measuring devices, biosensors, and simulation modeling approaches as required for the commercial development and application of novel thermal and nonthermal food preservation processes.

Session 116, “Nonthermal Technologies in Dairy Foods and Beverages: High Pressure Homogenization,” will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday. It will focus on how and why the homogenization process was developed in the food industry and on the current and future uses of low and high pressure homogenization. The speakers were selected to provide the audience with a perspective on current processing equipment for delivery of low and high pressure homogenization, the development of new ingredients and applications by processing food proteins and polysaccharides, the inactivation of enzymes and foodborne pathogens and spoilage microorganisms, and future potential for this technology for food applications.

In Session 024, “Multiphysics Simulation of Microwave Heating for Product and Process Development,” from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, the presenters will describe simulations of consumer and industrial food processes as well as the future of multiphysics simulations of microwave processes.

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In recent years, advances in multiphysics simulation programs have made these software packages valuable for modeling mass, heat, and momentum transport phenomena in a variety of food processes. For unit operations that involve microwave heating, the addition of electromagnetic energy to a process simulation adds both complexity and opportunity. While earlier simulation approaches had to rely on empirical or semi-empirical models for the interaction of microwaves with food materials, newer multiphysics simulation programs (both commercial and homegrown) have the capability to fully model and couple microwave energy and the more well-characterized processes of convection, conduction, radiation, fluid flow, and mass transfer. In other words, multiphysics simulation software can now simultaneously solve Maxwell’s equations as well as the equation systems associated with transport phenomena. This improvement has resulted in process models that are more geometrically and temporally accurate.

Space Feeding and Modeling Digestion
Session 025, “NASA Food System Challenges: They Are Out of This World,” which is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, will provide an overview of NASA’s food science research and offer more details on three ongoing studies.

One of the studies is developing reduced sodium irradiated meat products and the approach to receive FDA approval on the use of electron beam irradiation for the process to achieve commercial sterility. The second study is determining how physiological changes due to microgravity affect the sense of smell and taste. The third study is comparing the advantages and disadvantages of a more bioregenerative food system vs a packaged food system for a surface mission, such as one to Mars. This study will consider physical parameters such as mass and volume, as well as crew time and food quality.

Session 102, “Understanding Food Digestion in the Gastrointestinal Tract to Create Foods with Novel Health Benefits,” will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Food processing has evolved to carry out steps for the controlled destruction of natural food structures. These steps facilitate separation of valuable components from the original matrix in which they are embedded. The separated ingredients are then converted into recognizable processed foods with desirable textural and sensory properties by application of one or more processing steps. Recent evidence indicates that how the food structure breaks down during digestion significantly affects the rate of uptake of nutrients in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Therefore, the knowledge and any capability to predict how a food digests in the GI tract are important for developing new food products with novel health benefits.

Session 111, “Delivery of Fresh Food Quality via Alternative Processing Methods: Quality Kinetics and Shelf Life,” will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday. This symposium will provide a view of the impact of selected alternative processes on quality of the same product, tomatoes, conducted on a USDA-NRI funded project involving four universities and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center, with input from various industry representatives. With a plethora of nonthermal and other alternative process methods vying for attention, industry professionals have for years wanted to be able to bring a clear message to management on the pros and cons of comparing different alternative processes. This study is the first of its kind, comparing the quality attributes of a single product (tomatoes) that has been processed using three different alternative processing technologies: ohmic, microwave, and high pressure processing.

Contract Manufacturing
For those interested in learning the ins and outs of working with a contract manufacturer, consider attending Session 169, “Partnering for Success with your Contract Manufacturer,” from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday in the Special Events Pavilion on the Expo floor. (Full discolsure: I am one of the speakers.)

Food companies choose to work with contract manufacturers for two primary reasons: to bring products to market faster and to augment their internal capabilities. But unlike their internal operations, companies have limited control over the processes used by contractors to manufacture their products. Yet they are completely accountable for the quality and safety of the ingredients they use. It is often the food scientist or engineer tasked with the responsibility to find the right resource to make the project successful.

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Knowing the technical capabilities a contract manufacturer has is only part of the selection criteria. Equally important are their process, safety, and service protocols. How can you be sure that the contract manufacturer will deliver the results you need? How can you guarantee that your product will be safe, and will meet your quality standards? What can you expect from your partnership with a contract manufacturer?

Session 182, “Safety Evaluation of Nanodelivery Systems and Nanoparticles in Foods,” will take place from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. Delivery vehicles in the form of emulsions, liposomes, solid lipid nanoparticles, and polymeric nanoparticles have been developed to increase bioavailability of various entrapped bioactives. Critical developments made in the area of nanodelivery applications for drug delivery can be translated and applied in food applications. Nanoparticles, including inorganic particles, are expected to increasingly be incorporated into foods as ingredients, in food packaging, or they may contaminate foods from various sources. All of the preceding issues will be addressed in this session.

Session 217, “The Emerging Viral Threat: Novel Processing Technologies to Control Norovirus in Foods,” scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday, will focus on a project recently funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which has the objective of developing food processing technologies to improve the microbiological safety of foods. Three programs focusing on microwave pasteurization, nonthermal processing technologies, and meat processing and retail operations will be discussed. An overarching objective for process development in these projects is the control of viral pathogens. Using norovirus as an example, the session will emphasize how novel technologies could contribute to pathogen control in foods focusing on recent developments and strategies for norovirus control.

Crystallization and Dispersions
Session 216, “Perspectives on Melting and Crystallization of Carbohydrates and Sugars,” which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thursday, will discuss recent findings and terminology used to describe the complex thermal properties of sugars and carbohydrates as such and in mixtures with miscible components.

Organic materials, such as numerous carbohydrates and sugars, are sensitive to temperature and may undergo degradation at temperatures below their melting temperatures. Degradation also produces compounds, such as water, that depress melting temperatures and increase complexity of thermal processes leading to various interpretations of the kinetics and thermodynamics of the melting process. Furthermore, degradation products contribute to flavor and affect crystallization properties of the melts produced. The melts often produce amorphous structures that form glasses and may show crystallization as supercooled liquids above the glass transition. Crystallization kinetics depend on the properties of the melts and are also affected by impurities and components that disturb diffusion, nucleation, and crystal growth.

Session 257, “Dispersions in Beverages and Foods: From Theory to Applications,” will take place from 1:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Thursday. Dispersions occur widely in foods and often are related to consumer preference. This symposium is designed to provide an update on the latest scientific developments in order to promote understanding of foams, emulsions, and other disperse food systems. To achieve stability of these food dispersions, the physical borders of the systems need to be understood. This is especially valid for relatively unstable systems like foams or dispersions used for nutrient delivery.

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Session 259, “Effects of Refrigeration, Particularly Freezing and Freezing Techniques, on Food Microbial Safety and Quality,” is slated for 1:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Thursday. Frozen food, including frozen ready meals, meat, seafood, and vegetables, is a large segment of the food market. Refrigeration reduces microbial activity and biochemical reactions in food. Certain freezing techniques reduce the overall freezing time and the weight loss of the food products and effectively reduce microbial counts. Freezing techniques greatly affect the maintenance of quality and safety of frozen foods. This symposium will discuss freezing techniques and their effects on the safety and quality of frozen products.

Food Engineering Division Poster Sessions are another excellent source of information on a wide-ranging array of research topics. Session 77, Food Engineering Division: Food Engineering Posters, which will begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, will feature 153 presentations. Session 228, Food Engineering: Processing and Packaging Posters, will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday and will feature 24 presentations.

Exhibitor Information
Brief descriptions of some of the processing-related exhibits at the IFT Food Expo follow.

FT94LT Mini Pilot System complete with tubular heat exchanger is a cost-effective HTST/UHT processing system, based on a tubular heat exchanger only, with a range of options that includes data logging, to tailor the product to individual requirements. Preheating by vacuum steam and final heating by indirect steam makes it possible to easily work with a range of products varying in viscosity. The higher flow rate allows processing of large batches of product for extensive product testing. The system can be linked to an in-line homogenizer (FT91) and sterile filler (FT83) to create a complete sterile process line in the laboratory. Armfield Ltd., www.armfield.co.uk, Booth 1369

Advanced processing solutions and process integration capabilities will be in the spotlight at the GEA Process Engineering booth. Capabilities include spray and freeze drying, particulate processing, powder transport and packaging, aseptic PET bottle filling as well as membrane filtration technology. GEA Process Engineering will also promote a wide range of feasibility- and process development-scale plants that can assist universities and corporate R&D facilities in their process, application, and plant development. The range of pilot plants is available for purchase or for short-term lease. GEA, www.niroinc.com, Booth 1535

Turnkey pasteurization, sterilization, and roasting systems are available for the nut, spice, seed, herb, grain, flour, tobacco, and related food industries. Pasteurization and sterilization technology is non-chemical and will maintain original product taste and appearance characteristics. A 5 log reduction or a specific low plate count in raw and/or roasted low water activity foods is guaranteed. Systems are fully automated and are placed in line with an existing process flow; capacities range from 500 to 40,000 lbs/hr. Log5 Corp., www.log5.com, Booth 1777

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Sanitary Vee-Cone Blender, Model VB-10-316S, has 10 cu ft (283 L) capacity. Its smooth internal surfaces are free of baffles, shafts, and bearings, allowing unobstructed material flow as well as complete discharge through a gate valve. The absence of residual material, together with easy access to internal surfaces through the discharge valve and doors at the ends of the inclined cylinders, allows rapid sanitizing to prevent cross-contamination. Intended for dry and granular materials, the blender provides a tumbling action that is more gentle than that of agitated machines in which blades, paddles, or plows are forced through stationary material. An intensifier bar may be utilized to impart the shear needed to break down soft agglomerates. Munson Machinery, www.munsonmachinery.com, Booth 3376

Newly designed ceiling squeegee from Vikan® addresses the problem of ceiling condensation. This brand new tool features a one-piece, color-coded head with no screws or end caps, making for a streamlined tool that can easily capture and remove nuisance moisture in a way that is simple and cost-effective. Several options for draining handles that work in tandem with this squeegee are available. Remco Products, www.remcoproducts.com, Booth 848

Stainless steel line of AODD pumps, Pro-Flo X™ HS (Hygienic Series) has been designed specifically to offer the versatility, safety, and capability needed in food and beverage processing—efficiently pumping a full range of viscosities, solids, and shear-sensitive products. HS pumps are designed so that they do not contain any mechanical seals or rotating parts, which eliminates any nooks and crannies where product residue can be trapped and compromise the pump’s sanitary operation. Pro-Flo X™ HS pumps feature Wilden’s patented air distribution system which allows the user to control air consumption and flow rates with the turn of a dial, resulting in reduced energy usage and cost savings. PSG Wilden Pump, www.wildenpump.com, Booth 3960

Lab UHT/HTST processors and miniature plant trial services enable clients to develop products faster, more accurately, and at lower costs than with traditional methods, thus ensuring an excellent return on investment. Capabilities include accurately reproducing production processes for products including juices, soymilks, milk, puddings, cheese sauces, yogurts, and more. Winner of the 2011 IFT Industrial Achievement Award, MicroThermics offers new mix/batch tanks, thermal process matching technology (which enables equipment to yield true production thermal processes), and incline processes like steam injection, homogenization, or filling. MicroThermics Inc., www.microthermics.com, Booth 1223


J. Peter Clark, Contributing Editor, Consultant to the Process Industries, Oak Park, Ill.
[email protected]