Microwave technology for food processing

Industrial Microwave Systems, L.L.C., the producer of patented microwave systems, announces the first commercial process licensing and installation of its Cylindrical Heating System. This system, developed by IMS, employs an aseptic process created through the joint efforts of IMS, North Carolina State University Department of Food Science, and the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (South Atlantic Area).

This new microwave technology, which features a unique, ultra-rapid method of heating aseptic and extended shelf life pumpable food products in a tube, has been installed for Yamco, L.L.C., a North Carolina company. Yamco will officially open a new food manufacturing facility on 26 March, 2008, and showcase this technology for the processing of low acid sweet potatoes.

The IMS Cylindrical Heating System enables liquid, semi-liquid, and pumpable foods and beverages to be uniformly and volumetrically heated on a continuous flow basis while pumped through a tube. The patented technology employed by the IMS cylindrical heater provides uniform spatial and temporal delivery of high-intensity thermal energy to the flowing components, solving the problem of ‘hot spots’ in traditional thermal processing technology.

This results in benefits that allow manufacturers currently using conventional heat exchangers an opportunity to greatly improve product quality while reducing floor space and increasing operational efficiency.

For Yamco, the installation of the IMS Cylindrical Heating System will enable it to produce a superior, nutrient-rich, shelf-stable sweet potato product that can be sold as a premium food ingredient for use in products such as baked goods, nutraceuticals, and infant formulations. Because the pumpable food product is heated so quickly and evenly, the unique thermal process allows for ultra-rapid sterilization with minimal product degradation.

Extensive testing of the heating system and process at North Carolina State University has ensured the delivery of an aseptic sweet potato puree that exhibits maximal nutrient and colour retention and minimal flavour loss. The capability of producing such a superior sweet potato product presents an advantageous opportunity for North Carolina farmers, who account for 40% of the United States’ annual sweet potato production.

A joint U.S. patent for the ultra-rapid heating process has been filed by IMS, North Carolina State University, and the USDA. The three parties worked together to test and develop the total aseptic process and packaging system. When issued, the patent, as it pertains to sweet potato puree processing, will be exclusively licensed to Yamco.

For more information about the Cylindrical Heating System and other innovative microwave technologies for industrial use,

email info@industrialmicrowave.com

or visit www.industrialmicrowave.com

NZ’s primary sector graduates

A record number of qualifications related to New Zealand’s important land-based industries will be awarded at Lincoln University’s 2008 Graduation Ceremony in Christchurch Town Hall on Friday 4 April.

From a total of 725 degrees, diplomas and certificates, a 10-year high of over 26 percent relate to areas such as agriculture, viticulture, wine science, food science, horticulture, farm management, forestry and organic husbandry.

“The increase in qualifications connected to New Zealand’s primary industry sector is good news for New Zealand’s land-based economy,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Roger Field.

“It clearly reflects the breadth of employment opportunities which characterises the sector today and the range of associated careers we prepare people for at Lincoln University – from on-the-land producers, to research scientists, industry consultants and advisers, to agribusiness personnel, bankers and specialists in many other allied areas.

“The primary sector is now vast and complex with an immense variety of satisfying and financially rewarding career choices open to those with appropriate tertiary qualifications.

“Also good news is an increase in qualifications being awarded specifically in the physical and applied sciences – up 3% on last year to more than 22% of our total. Postgraduate qualifications are up by the same amount too, equalling 22% of the total (which) includes 21 PhDs.”

Also being awarded at the ceremony for the first time is the honorary degree, Doctor of Social Science honoris causa. The recipient is former international opera singer and past CEO of New Zealand Cricket Christopher Doig of Christchurch. Since standing down from NZ Cricket, Doig has been involved in sports marketing and sponsorship and he has recently returned to the world of opera as executive chair of the new Christchurch-based company, Southern Opera.

The honorary degree Doctor of Science honoris causa will be conferred on Christchurch businessman Graham Kitson, Chairman of the JATRA Group of companies, who has combined science and business in an outstanding enterprise marketing New Zealand food products in Japan. A Lincoln University alumnus whose whakapapa is Ngai Tahu, Kitson has also been involved in assisting a number of Maori trusts and incorporations with business and export development.

The 75th award of the University’s prestigious Bledisloe Medal, for alumni and staff who have advanced the interests of New Zealand, will be made to Hawkes Bay farmer/agribusinessman Sam Robinson, a past Chairman of the Hawkes Bay meat company Richmond Ltd (now amalgamated with PPCS) and past winner of the Hawkes Bay Farmer of the Year title.

The University’s Alumni International Medal, for international alumni who have advanced the interests of their home countries, will be awarded to Giles Rowsell of Hampshire, England, a prominent farmer, chair of farmer organisations and lobbyist for farmer interests in the United Kingdom. In addition to farming, Rowsell is a prominent figure in British equestrian eventing and was Competition Controller for Eventing at the Atlanta and Athens Olympic Games.

The Lincoln University Graduation ceremony starts at 2.00pm and, weather permitting, will be preceded by an academic procession through central Christchurch from the Arts Centre to the Town Hall.

The ceremony will be presided over by the Chancellor of Lincoln University Tom Lambie, himself a Lincoln graduate.

For further information contact:

Ian Collins

Communications Group, Lincoln University, Canterbury



Convention on food future

‘Our Food Our Future’ is the theme for of a four day program at the 41st annual Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) Convention, 21 to 24 July 2008 at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre, Darling Harbour.

The AIFST Convention encompasses the latest information and topics of interest to food and packaging manufacturers and their suppliers, service industries such as hospitality, primary industry representatives and food marketers.

The most recent developments in bio degradable packaging and the science of plastics and food technology will be presented with an interactive workshop focusing on the requirements of food product labeling.

Respected international speakers presenting at the Convention include Frank Yiannas, manager of Walt Disney World’s Food Safety and Health Department; and John Flores, President of the Institute of Food Technologists. Both will focus on the role of education and training in the food industry.

Each day a different aspect of the food industry, including regulatory issues, business development and the future of food, will be held under the microscope.

Delegates can choose from more than 50 talks in a series of concurrent sessions on areas like sustainability, ‘from concept to commercialisation’, supply chain directions, food packaging, food technology and chefs (culinology), and agricultural options in the face of climate change.

The much-awaited Cook Chill for Food Services and Manufacturing book, an essential manual for anyone involved in the manufacture and preparation of cook chill foods, will be launched.

Also on the program are the coveted AIFST Awards, workshops and opportunities to network. Additionally, attendees can visit the industry trade fair foodpro 2008, held at the same venue.

AIFST was established in 1967 to represent individuals involved in the Australian food and allied industries. Committed to building professional standing in the sector, AIFST has developed a strong reputation for facilitating networking, communication and education in the food industry.

For further information or to register for the AIFST Convention, visit www.aifst.asn.au/annualconvention

Baby food processors return to the simple life

There has been an evolution in the baby food segment in recent years.

Highly processed varieties are being replaced with healthier products, and smaller companies are emerging to tackle the growing organics sector.

The format of baby food is also changing, with newer companies moving away from conventional canning and developing chilled and frozen ranges that resemble home-cooked meals while still being a convenient alternative.

These processing methods claim to keep the product fresher and safer for the consumer.

Today’s baby food manufacturing is comprised of more simple, conventional cooking methods rather than complex, sophisticated processing systems.

“From a processing perspective, it seems like baby food manufacturers are going backwards instead of forwards in the sense that cooking is becoming less about high-tech equipment and processes,” Boost Foods director and chef Geoff McEwan said.

“I think the days of cans and bottles are gone and that the future is fresh, which means less processing.”

Gold Peg, a supplier of direct steam injection continuous cooking technology and systems, believes they are meeting the demands of baby food manufacturers that want to maintain the appearance and flavour of ingredients for appeal and taste, while guaranteeing safety.

“The RotaTherm cooker is energy efficient and decreases the impact on ingredients to facilitate an organic, home-cooked appearance, while still maintaining high bacteriological kill,” Gold Peg marketing manager Paula Bell said.


The simple, home-style approach to processing baby food is governed by two main considerations: nutritional value and food safety.

The taste and appearance of the food are important.

The focus on nutrition in baby food manufacturing is of particular importance, given that babies require higher levels of nutrients in their diets than adults to facilitate normal growth and development.

This and parents’ desire to maintain their babies optimum health has spurred an increase in the organics baby food sector, which Woolworths says now comprises 15% of the Australian baby grocery market, and has also impacted on the format and processing of baby food.

Cooking plays a major part in the retention of nutrient value in raw fruit and vegetables.

A book written by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, USA, (1999) reported that food processing contributed to the health, safety, taste and shelf stability of a product though could also be detrimental to the nutritional quality of the food.

The time and temperature of processing, product composition and storage are all factors that substantially impact on the vitamin status of food, the book stated.

For instance in certain foods blanching, milling and extrusion can result in the loss of vitamins and minerals.

Chilled ready-to-eat baby food

Boost Foods, an organic baby food company, employs a manual, home-style cooking method for its Baby Boost brand.

The company was started in order to provide consumers with a convenient alternative to home cooked food that met similar taste and nutritional standards.

“The initial challenge we faced was how to replicate what is done at home by retaining all the vitamins and nutrients babies needs, and produce it on a commercial scale,” explained Geoff McEwan.

The result was a range of chilled baby food made from fresh produce.

Boost Foods takes a manual approach to cooking, utilising a thermal processing method in a steam jacketed kettle.

This is beneficial as it is able to monitor the profile of the food during the entire process, controlling the temperature and overall quality of the end product.

“We have adopted the ‘less is more’ approach and cook the product as little as possible,” McEwan said.

Thermal processing heats the product from underneath and from the side walls, resulting in fast cooking times and the retention of colour and flavour.

Minimal water is used for cooking which means nutrients are not drained with the water at the end.

The food is packaged in a soft pouch that has a shelf life of 100 days.

The pouch can be heated and the food served directly from it.

Food safety is ensured by pasteurising the product, as opposed to adding artificial preservatives and stabilisers.

Boost Foods maintains its labour-intensive cooking procedure still allows it to produce high volumes of product, but says it involves working harder for longer.

“Taking a manual approach as opposed to a mechanical may be more labour intensive but it’s also essential in ensuring the end product satisfies high nutritional and taste standards,” McEwan said.


Organic baby food company, Organic Bubs, also utilises conventional, manual processing methods to ensure its products boast high nutritional and safety standards.

The manual handling of the product and use of smaller, less industrial equipment allows the company to exercise control over the cooking temperature, as well as the taste and appearance of the product.

“We know there is sophisticated, industrial equipment on the market but we have a philosophy that if the equipment interferes with our quality standards then we will continue to do it by hand, despite the labour involved,” Organics Bubs director Anthony Gauldi said.

The innovative format of the baby food, being snap frozen, is also central to the company’s focus on nutrition and safety.

Having started manufacturing in May this year, Organic Bubs is currently the only company in Australia offering snap-frozen meals.

Frozen ready meals in the adult food category have been around for years, though have been slow to be taken up by Australian manufacturers in the baby food market given the perception by consumers that frozen is not healthy because it is not fresh.

Organics Bubs, on the other hand, believe that frozen is better than most fresh processing.

“If you can get fresh produce, process it straight away and blast freeze it, you can preserve the colour of the product, its nutrient content and its shelf life,” Gualdi said.

Blast freezing involves bringing down the temperature of the cooked food rapidly, from approximately 80 degrees to -22 degrees.

After cooking the product in steam injected kettles, the mix is put through a mouli to ensure there are no lumps in the product that the baby will not be able to swallow, and it is then manually scooped into PP5-grade plastic tubs.

One of the main benefits of steam injection cooking is that the product can be cooked at lower temperatures as it is cooked evenly throughout the whole pot and agitates as it goes.

“Making sure the food is not heated to high levels is essential to ensure more nutrients are kept in,” Gualdi said.

This method differs to that used by parents at home, as cooking on a stove involves heating food from the bottom up, but the end result — in terms of the taste, appearance and nutritional quality of the food — is similar due to Organic Bub’s hands-on approach.

Shelf-stable baby food

Heinz Australia, Australia’s leading baby food manufacturer comprising 78.9% of the wet baby food market, says its food recipes and the way they are developed also resemble home-made methods.

The company develops its recipes in 2kg pots which are only moved to 2000kg kettles for production once they have met its taste and nutritional standards.

Heinz employs a batch cooking method using continuous steam injection, with a specific volume of the recipe being cooked before being filled into individual vacuum-sealed glass jars.

A retorting process is then employed to finish the cooking and seal in jars.

Unlike conventional retort cooking, which often involves high-pressure steam to cook the product inside a can or jar and can result in over-cooking, the fact that most of the cooking is done in a kettle before filling results in the retorting process being less severe and helps to retain nutrients.

“Batch cooking ensures a high level of accuracy and control through carefully monitoring recipe preparation as well as ingredients and packaging components,” a Heinz spokesperson said.

The product is sealed in air-tight jars which preserves the product without adding anything artificial and prevents microbial contamination.

If stored in a cool, dry cupboard or pantry, the jarred baby food is shelf stable for at least three years.

The health and wellness trend has lead to new product development at Heinz under its Pure Start program.

Products in this range contain fresh produce, meat and grains, no preservatives, salt, colours or artificial flavours and now include varieties such as organics and vegetarian.

Consumer and retailer demand for less processed, more natural, and yet convenient baby food has resulted in a trend towards simple, conventional processing methods to ensure products retain high levels of nutrition and safety.

The types of baby food on offer will continue to evolve in line with consumer perceptions and tastes, and food manufacturers will continue to search for the best methods of meeting these demands, even if that involves less and less processing.

It pays to climb the career ladder

Danny Neale of Trafalgar in Gippsland has won the national Dairy Australia Education Excellence Award — Manufacturing, sponsored by Dairy Australia.

The win was announced at the Australian Grand Dairy Awards in the National Gallery of Victoria on February 5th, 2008.

Neale, 39, worked his way up the ranks from a casual cleaner at Fonterra, Cobden, to site operations excellence co-ordinator at Fonterra’s Darnum plant.

Along the way he worked as an evaporator and dryer operator, and in the warehouse and packaging departments.

In the previous 12 months, as a Production Technologist, Danny was responsible for process and plant optimisation and improvement, along with process troubleshooting and special projects.

In developing his dairy manufacturing career, Danny successfully completed Certificate II and III Studies in Food Processing and he recently completed the Diploma of Food Science and Technology at the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA), where he maintained a continually high level of academic achievement.

He was awarded the prize based on academic achievement and his potential for future development within the Australian dairy industry.

Danny received his $1000 award from Dairy Australia’s managing director, Dr Mike Ginnivan, at a ceremony attended by representatives of the dairy processing industry.

National Centre for Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA)

Dairy Australia


Food safety seminar

The New Zealand and Australian institutes of food science and technology (NZIFST and AIFST) encourage members of the food industry to attend a seminar on October 15th in New Zealand which will focus on fulfilling Food Control Plan requirements and expanding knowledge of food safety practices.

Those involved in manufacturing for food service, chilled ready-to-eat meals and food safety auditing, consulting or verifying will benefit from the seminar which will open with a presentation on Food Control Plans by Mike Orchard, program manager (food service) at NZFSA.

Industry perspectives on food safety will be discussed by Gary Kennedy from Correct Food Systems (Australia) and Mary Whelan, an AIFST food services advisor, who will speak about her recent fact finding trip in Europe.

Microbiology and hands-on food safety programs will be discussed by researchers and those in industry.

Event details:

Date: Monday 15th October

Time: 8.30am – 4.30pm

Venue: Waipuna Hotel, 58 Waipuna Rd, Auckland

Cost: $150

Click here for the full programme, further information and registration form.

Softfruit launched in UK

Australian research and development company, Byron Food Science, has announced the commercialisation of its SOFTFRUIT technology in the UK.

Softfruit technology allows the economical production water activity controlled real fruits and these products are now available in Australia and New Zealand through Byron.

According to the company, the novel technology preserves the natural textures, flavours and colours of real fruit during the manufacturing process.

The process is fast, produces no by-products and can be manufactured close to the market place all year round.

The Byron technology enables the water activity of the fruit to match its specific application, whether added to dry breakfast cereals, high-moisture bakery items, dairy products, wet pie fillings or additions to sausage fillings.

Due to the efficiency of the process, functional food products that contain no added sugar, completely natural ingredients or pro- and prebiotic properties can be formulated.

Native fruits rich in antioxidants

A recent study by Food Science Australia (FSA) has revealed the high antioxidant levels in twelve native Australian fruits which could benefit the food and functional food industries.

Published in the journal Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, the fruits were shown to be rich sources of antioxidants with stronger radical scavenging activities than blueberries, which are renowned for their high antioxidant properties.

The fruits include:

  • Kakadu plum
  • Illawarra plum
  • Burdekin plum
  • Davidson’s plum
  • Riberry
  • Red and yellow finger limes
  • Tasmanian pepper
  • Brush cherry
  • Cedar Bay cherry
  • Muntries
  • Molucca raspberry

“Compared to blueberries’ TEAC value of 39.45 trolox equivalents per gram, Kakadu plum and Burdekin plum had TEAC values of 204.8 and 192.0 trolox equivalents per gram,” co-author and FSA researcher Dr Michael Netzel said.

According to FSA, using native Australian fruits as a source of phytochemicals for use in foods could have many benefits for the food and functional food industries, and studies to identify additional antioxidant compounds as well as clinical trials for testing the fruits’ bioactivity are in progress.

“Finding unique food ingredients and flavours with health-promoting properties is a key market requirement these days,” FSA’s research team leader Izabela Konczak said.

“And by encouraging growers to cultivate native fruits, we are also contributing to the growing need to ensure agriculture becomes more sustainable.”

The research supports CSIRO efforts to realise the potential of Australia’s fledgling native food industry, currently estimated to be worth $14 million annually.

It is the first scientific study of the fruits as a source of antioxidants, confirming preliminary results published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2006.