Tunnel and Batch Pasteurization versus adding Artificial Preservatives to Food and Beverages
By Edward A. Michalski
PRO Engineering/Manufacturing, Inc.
According to the International Food Information Council, in 2020 nearly half of consumers look at the ingredients label when making buying decisions, and 25% try to avoid certain ingredients, including artificial food preservatives. These numbers indicate the growing “clean label movement”, which is the biggest trend of the decade in packaged foods.
As consumers’ decisions change based on their food’s perceived healthiness, the clean label trend drives the food industry to examine production processes and ingredients. As mentioned in the Harvard Business Review, even the big, mainstream food companies are moving towards more natural methods and ingredients. During the Sustainable Brands Metrics Conference, business leaders declared that this generation of parents, workers, and consumers –Millennials– are twice as likely to check product packaging and labels; hence, minimally processed and socially responsible ingredients are becoming a non-negotiable essential for food labels. Lastly, the Food Technology Magazine reports that the global 2n 2020 bel”ucers are enacting “eclean label food sales in 2020 are worth around $180 billion compared to $ 165 billion in 2015.
The clean label trend is challenging the food and beverage makers to provide products with fewer ingredients and to use alternative processes that exclude artificial additives and preservatives. Interestingly, specific production methods are perceived as more “natural” than others, while certain food components are perceived as “unhealthy,” such as artificial beverage preservatives. Although preservatives prolong the shelf life of food and beverages, these additives –nitrites, nitrates, and benzoates (parabens)– can be toxic, and some have even life-threatening effects.
Research has shown that artificial preservatives such as sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, velcorin, and EDTA can cause headaches, diarrhea, allergies, asthma, neurological disorders, and cancer.
Further, some antioxidants like propyl gallate, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxylanisole (BHA) slow or stop the breakdown of fats and oils. At the same time, some preservatives block the enzymatic processes.
Therefore, avoidance of artificial ingredients has caused manufacturers to struggle maintain a balance among more natural processes, keeping food safe, and maintenance of profits. One alternative to solve this dilemma is using tunnel and batch pasteurization to help achieve a “clean label” on their products.
Pasteurization is a physical preservation technique where food and beverages are heated up to specific temperatures for specific times to destroy spoilage-causing microorganisms. This heat treatment kills most pathogenic bacteria and yeast. There are several options of pasteurizers: high-temperature short time (HTST), also called flash pasteurization; ultra-high temperature (UHT); and low-temperature long time (LTLT) including batch, and tunnel pasteurizers.
However, flash pasteurization requires supervision to prevent overheating. Certain physical, biological, and chemical changes can occur in food and beverages due to the excess of heat; for example, the heat may damage vitamins and minerals. For this reason, batch and tunnel pasteurization are recommended when looking to provide a “clean label” product to the marketplace.
Tunnel and batch pasteurizers often operate by heating the product to approximately 60 °C (140 °F) for a pre-determined time. Manufacturers use Pasteurization Units (PU) along with time-temperature magnitudes to monitor the process and the “lethal effect” of the heat on the microorganisms. The pasteurization units are equal to 1 PU when the product is exposed to 60°C (140°F) for one minute. Depending on the type of food or beverage, the PU required for appropriate pasteurization varies. Beverages such as beer, fruit juices, cider, cold coffee, and milk all need different PUs, and the same is true with foodstuffs.
PRO Engineering Batch Pasteurizer-Spray Version
Tunnel and batch pasteurization receive the beverage or food products already packaged. In tunnel pasteurization the packages sit on a traveling belt and are led to progressively hotter zones, holding/pasteurization zones, and colder zones until reaching the desired “out” temperature, for example, 20°C (68°F). The process uses water sprayed at different temperatures on the packages. The container is heated by conduction and the beverage is heated by convection. Batch pasteurization is similar to tunnel pasteurization but does not move the packages through various zone on a moving conveyor belt. Batch pasteurizers are classified as either “tank” or “spray” batch pasteurizers. Tank versions lower the product into a tank of heated water and spray pasteurizers spray heated water on the containers inside an enclosure
As food retailers, manufacturers, and producers are enacting clean label guidelines, much effort has been put forth to optimize the processes of beverages, ready-to-eat meat, poultry, and other products. Fuhrman et al. (2018) recognized that post-packaging tunnel pasteurization offers multiple benefits for producers in the meat and poultry industry.
Tunnel pasteurizers eliminate important pathogens from the surface of ready-to-eat products achieving safety without adding nitrites or other antimicrobial agents; therefore, resulting in a cleaner labeled product. Similar conclusions were published by Higgins et al. (2014) highlighting the broad acceptance that pasteurization has gained in the U.S. and Canada.
Consumers looking for healthy, natural, and simple foods are actively avoiding products made with chemical ingredients. As this “clean label movement” spreads, food and beverage manufacturers have to keep pace by removing artificial ingredients from their products. One alternative to accomplishing this is through tunnel or batch pasteurization.
For more information on tunnel and batch pasteurization contact PRO Engineering/Manufacturing, Inc. at [email protected] or call (414) 362-1500 and ask for Ed Michalski, CEO.
Edward A. Michalski Bio
Ed Michalski started his career in the beverage industry by designing stainless steel, higher flow, spray headers for Pabst Brewing. Along with the header design he also developed a process to produce the new headers.
Ed, along with his brother David, formed PRO Engineering/Manufacturing, Inc..
Based on what they learned by re-designing and refurbishing other manufacturers’ pasteurizers, Ed and PRO started to offer the pasteurizer marketplace superior new pasteurizers.
PRO Engineering/Manufacturing has been designing and manufacturing great pasteurizers for over four decades.
PRO Engineering and Manufacturing was established in 1977 by Ed and Dave Michalski as a steel fabrication shop. For more than 40 years, PRO Engineering and Manufacturing, Inc. has been delivering solutions for beverage product shelf stability and consumption safety. As leading innovators in post-fill pasteurization, our skilled team offers the best in high-quality pasteurization equipment.
Phone: 414-362-1500 | Email: [email protected]
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