By Shikhangi Singh, Ranjna Sirohi and Dr. Anupama Singh
Consumer’s demand for healthy and nutritious food has ignited food processing industries to look for alternative innovative technologies that can produce high-quality food ensuring food safety. Innovative food processing technologies could be used as a tool in a value chain to ensure food safety with added nutritional characteristics. Since, any food product in a food production follows a chain, starting with production and storage of raw materials and continues, through processing, packaging, distribution and preparation in the household, to the table of the consumer and thus, various technological approaches have been developed in recent years which can be incorporated to ensure the food safety in the whole food production chain. These new processes, packaging materials, equipment, appropriate processing technologies and safety systems will lead to the production of safer foods that have new flavors, textures and tastes, are more nutritious and convenient to prepare and have a longer shelf-life.
Food Safety Concepts
Quality together with safety in the food chain is one of the most important issues facing the food industries since consumers nowadays are more concerned about theirfood consumption andare more educated and informed about food related issues.
Without some basic principles and procedures, the production of defect free products with consistent quality is nearly impossible. On the level of processing these requirements are described as “Good Manufacturing Practice” (GMP). Less well established are “Good Agricultural Practice” (GAP) and “Good Distribution Practice” (GDP). Some of them are discussed below:
GMP: It is concerned with both production and quality control. GMP includes regulations concerning cleaning, personal hygiene, infrastructure and traceability. It is that part of quality assurance which ensures that products are consistently produced and controlled to the quality standards appropriate for their intended use.
GAP: It is a collection of principles applied to on-farm production and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products while considering economical social and environmental sustainability.
GDP: It is that part of quality assurance which ensures that products are consistently stored, transported and handled under suitable conditions.
HACCP: Hazard analysis and critical control point concept is an effective and rational means of assuring food safety from harvest to consumption.
Self-Control: Each company can use a system of self-control to verify the function of its quality assurance systems on a regular basis.
Certification systems: Food safety standards are certification systems under private law. The processor must include the whole preliminary processing chain. Governments and the other stakeholders are developing and imposing new legislation and other such possible systems to improve the product quality to guarantee the safety of the products and to raise the consumer community’s awareness. Thus, food safety is currently considered as an important issue for all stakeholders in the area of the food production chain.
Overview of Food Production Chain and Food Safety Challenges
During the journey from farm to consumer, food commodities are likely to be exposed to a multitude of hazards that may lead to contamination by dust, dirt, weeds, mechanical injury, physicochemical changes accelerated by heat, light, metal ions, contamination or spoilage due to microorganisms, insects and rodents or biochemical changes brought about by enzymes. Generally, with all points in the food chain, conditions during storage and distribution should ensure the quality and safety of the food product, through the application of Good Hygienic Practices (GHPs) as set out in the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene.
Different types of food processing such as low temperature processing, thermal processing and minimal processing reduce the factors affecting food safety. Refrigeration and freezing are common and cheap methods of preserving perishable foods regarding shape, size, color, texture and flavour. Low temperature processing hinders the growth of microorganisms, whereas, thermal processing destroys a large proportion of the microorganisms and natural enzymes that reduces the shelf life but may result in the loss of size, color, texture and flavor
On the other hand, due to the growing demand for convenience and fresh like, healthy foods are driving the industrialized markets for chilled prepared foods. Traditional means to control food spoilage and microbiological safety hazards such as sterilization, curing or freezing are not compatible with market demands for fresh like convenience food. Therefore, food manufacturing industries seek to satisfy these consumer demands through the application of new and mild preservation techniques such as refrigeration, mild heating, modified atmosphere packaging and use of natural antimicrobial systems.
Various technological approaches have been developed in recent years which can be incorporated to produce high quality food products and ensure food safety in the whole food production chain. Some recent innovative technologies which are adopted by food processing industries are hereby discussed below:
- Pulsed Light technology: A non-thermal food processing practice, involving the discharge of high voltage electric pulses for a few seconds up to 70 kV/cm in the depth of food, placed between two electrodes. These electrical pulses kill the pests, reduce spoilage microorganisms and pathogens from food but are mostly used for inactivation of microorganism from food surface, packaging material and equipment. It has been observed that Electrical pulses with a field strength of 10 to 20 kV/cm have been shown to disrupt and rupture cell membranes.It is used for pasteurization of liquid foods (milk and juices), killing of vegetative tissues of solid foods and disinfection of food package surface.
- Ohmic heating: Ohmic heating method involves way of alternating power supplying to flow which obeys Ohm’s law, through a liquid-particulate food system. Electric current applied to a conductive food, allows rapid heating of the food product. Due to heat generation, microorganisms destroy in a similar manner to thermal processing. It is sometimes also called as joule heating or electro-heating. Use of ohmic heating in the field of extraction, thawing, blanching, fermentation and wastewater treatment.
- High Pressure Processing: HPP is a promising, “non-thermal” technology, also known as Pascalization which has been aimed at preserving and sterilizing food. This method involves the processing of food products under very high pressure (600±10 MPa) for a short period, leading inactivation of certain microorganisms and enzymes in the food.
- Ultrasonication: Ultrasonic, a non-destructive green technology is an alternative technique to the conventional methods that is developed to minimize processing the loss and maximize the quality principle of ultrasound follows the cavitation phenomenon. Sound waves produce in the liquid media results in propagation of high pressure (compression) and low-pressure (rarefaction) cycle. Small bubbles of vacuum or void in the liquid forms during low-pressure cycle ultrasonic waves. When the volume of the bubble can no longer absorb energy, they collapse ferociously during a high-pressure cycle. This phenomenon is called cavitation. During the implosion, very high temperatures (approx. 5,000K) and pressures (approx. 2,000 atm) are reached locally, rupturing the cell structure. Ultrasound technique employed to numerous process for example, freezing, drying, sterilization, extraction, pasteurization at a mild heat, enzyme inactivation, emulsification, crystallization, viscosity alteration and degassing, spraying or coating, anti-fouling and de-foaming which continuously applied competently in the food processing industry.
- Irradiation: The deliberate treatment/exposure of ionizing radiations in food such as γ-rays x-rays or electron beam from a radioactive or machine generated source, under controlled conditions, to disinfest, sterilize and preserve food and prolonging shelf life is known as Food Irradiation. Since the process does not involve heat generation, it is also termed as Cold Sterilization. The ionizing radiations i.e. γ-rays and electrons break the chemical bonds after absorbed by the material and the ionized products are maybe electrically charged ions or neutral free radicals. Then, these are further reacted to cause alterations in an irradiated material known as Radiolysis. These reactions destroy microorganisms, kills insects and parasites during irradiation. The important applications of irradiations are disinfestations of grains and fruits for insects and larvae inhibit sprouting, delay of fruit ripening, sterilization of herbs and spices and sterilization of hospital diets.
- Near Infrared Spectroscopy: Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a novel technique used for food safety inspection and control for its advantageous properties including rapidity, non-invasive measurement of compositional analysis of food, ease of use, and minimal sample preparation. NIR spectral region up to 700-2500 nm (0.7-2.5 µm) are widely used for quantitative analysis. The main advantage of NIR spectroscopy is to measure directly the composition of food products by use of diffuse reflection techniques. NIR is mostly applied with the aim to identify the level of adulteration and composition in meat products, fish and fish products, fruits and vegetables, edible oils, milk and dairy products, cereal and cereal products, instant milk teas and instant noodles.
Globalization of food production chains increase incidences of food-borne diseases and toxins in food. A new food production and distribution methods provide the potential for large and widespread foodborne disease outbreaks. Ensuring food safety must be an essential part of every step-in food production and preparation, from farm to plate. An integrated approach across the food production chain with shared responsibility and utilization of preventative risk-based approaches need to be encouraged and implemented to achieve food safety in the food production chain.
*Author is Ph.D Scholars, Department of Post-Harvest Process & Food Engg. G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar-263145, Uttarakhand, India
**Author is Professor, Department of Post-Harvest Process & Food Engg. G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar-263145, Uttarakhand, India