Preserving integrity throughout the supply chain
One of today’s challenges for the food industry is to guarantee safe food throughout the supply chain while retaining the same properties that were present when the foods were freshly made. During the distribution channel, from food manufacturer to consumer, food products need to be protected against physical, chemical, and microbial deterioration. Preservatives focus on the prevention of food spoilage caused by the activity of micro-organisms.
- Benzoic acid
Benzoic acid and benzoates are broad spectrum preservatives active against bacteria, yeasts, and molds. They are most effective in acidic products. The most common used form is sodium benzoate. Potassium benzoate can be used when sodium reduction is an issue.
- Sorbic acid
Sorbic acid and sorbates are most effective against yeasts and molds, and are effective in acidic to neutral conditions. Potassium sorbate is the most widely used form.
- Propionic acid
Propionic acid and propionates are effective against molds and can be used in acidic to neutral products. Calcium propionate is mostly used.
- The functionality of preservatives
The so-called hurdle technology in preservations means establishing different hurdles or different means of preventing microbial activity and multiplication.
The first hurdle is the temperature during processing and storage. A heat treatment is often used to extend the shelf life of foods. Depending on the temperature and time combination, partial or all micro-organisms are destroyed or inactivated. This starts at temperatures above 60°C. Decreasing temperatures also reduces the activity of micro-organisms and enzymes. In the refrigerator and freezer, micro-organisms are less active or completely inactive, but they are not completely destroyed.
Secondly, the presence of air and oxygen can be influenced. By carefully choosing the packaging material and packaging process, such as vacuum packaging or modified atmosphere packaging, oxygen, as a growth factor, can be removed. Thirdly, food composition itself creates a relatively attractive environment for micro-organisms and makes food susceptible for spoilage.
Water is essential for micro-organisms; therefore, drying is an effective method of preservation. Additionally, salt and sugar levels can reduce the availabbility of water for the micro-organisms. Preservation, by influencing the acidity level (pH), is undertaken through the addition of organic acids, e.g. pickling in vinegar.
Finally, chemical preservatives can be added to reduce or inhibit the activity of micro-organisms.This approach of combining multiple food hurdles in food processing, food packaging, and food composition is the most effective, and it will result in lower dosages of preservatives being required.
Consumers are demanding labels with ingredients they recognise and understand. As "no preservatives" is amongst the most popular clean label claims, food ingredient manufacturers have developed new ingredients to meet this demand. Several solutions based on fermentation technology are offered in the market.
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