Knowledge Based Bio-Economy

PRESERF

Processing Raw materials into Excellent and Sustainable End products while Remaining Fresh (Food processing)

Project acronym: PRESERF

Title of project: Processing Raw materials into Excellent and Sustainable End products while Remaining Fresh

Research area: Food Processing

Contract No: 245280

EU contribution: €2 547 864

Start date: April 2010

Duration: 48 months

Status: on-going

Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of healthy food products for maintaining a correct body weight and preventing conditions like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As a result, more fruits, vegetables and meat are consumed fresh. However, providing a constant and diverse supply of fresh products to the consumer is often not sustainable, especially when it concerns off-season products. They are transported over large distances (e.g. by aeroplane from the Southern hemisphere) and need to be cooled or frozen during transport. Furthermore, the shelf-life of fresh products is limited, which results in substantial product losses through waste.

Preserving food products by freezing, pasteurisation and drying does improve the shelf-life of products and results in lower transport costs. However, this often leads to a significant decrease in product quality (e.g. vitamin loss, flavour loss, and a change in texture). This shows that there is a need for novel sustainable preservation techniques that better maintain product quality and freshness without compromising food safety.

The PRESERF project focuses on the development of novel conservation techniques for a wide range of food applications (frozen, dried and packaged). These techniques will extend the shelf life of food products, better maintain their quality and freshness, and help meet the current demand for more convenience foods.

Three innovative preservation techniques, partly interconnected, are being investigated for their potential to maintain better product quality and freshness (nutritional value and taste). They will also contribute to improved sustainability, as they involve lower raw material losses and energy costs and reductions in the use of chemicals. These innovative techniques are:

  • freeze protection using PEF (pulsed electric fields) and vacuum impregnation;
  • mild drying using supercritical CO2;
  • low temperature pasteurisation using supercritical CO2 (CPT).

PERSERF is developing and assessing each technology according to the quality of the processed foods and the environmental benefits of the processes involved. After the development stage, scaled-up prototypes will be designed and constructed for comparative validation studies and demonstrations, particularly intended for SMEs.

The project consortium is investigating whether the three novel processing technologies can be applied to a wide variety of solid food products with no or minimal degradation of the product quality (nutritional value, colour, flavour, texture, enzymatic activity and microbial safety). By using such novel technologies it is expected that food chains can become more sustainable; through a combination of lower processing costs, better use of food materials and a reduction in transport costs. Demonstrations using equipment prototypes are expected to show the potential of CO2 drying and CPT treatment to interested parties, and to result in further exploitation of the technologies.

For the PEF technology, the research will provide a solid understanding of the survival mechanism of fragile plant tissues, along with the processing knowledge needed to use such techniques at an industrial scale. For CO2-drying, it is anticipated that the energy consumption and processing costs will be greatly reduced relative to freeze drying, while maintaining food quality. For CPT pasteurisation, optimal process conditions will be established for microbial and enzymatic inactivation of three solid food products, and its applicability for ready-to-eat products will be assessed in shelf-life tests.

Website of project: www.preserf.eu

Coordinator: Gerard Hofland, gerard.hofland@feyecon.com

Organisation: FeyeCon Development & Implementation B.V, the Netherlands, www.feyecon.com

Partners: