Chimica Oggi-Chemistry Today
Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech
Maintaining “freshness” in the global food market
Member of AgroFOOD industry hi-tech's Scientific Advisory Board

As the world is becoming more technologically complex, today’s consumers are demanding that foods become less complex: consumers want more “natural”, “minimally processed”, or “additive-free” options in the marketplace, while still expecting that a wide variety of foods be available year-around, but without the processing and preservatives that had made year-round availability possible in the first place. Meeting this “demand” is far more demanding on the food industry than one may first consider. As an example, consumers want “fresh-picked” fruits and vegetables, including those that only grow half-way around the world. To the consumer, all such food should retain the crispness and “picture-perfect” qualities of fresh-picked, even when found in frozen or canned foods or ready-to-eat meals; in addition, innovative tastes and textures are also expected.
The food industry is trying to stay abreast, if not anticipate, the consumer’s wants for the food industry. Food technologists are continually evaluating ingredients that may have multiple attributes for innovative food products. For example, some herbal extracts may add flavour, as well as inhibit bacterial growth, providing a preservative effect. Rosemary is one such herb. In other areas, food technologists are looking towards the encapsulation of vitamins and other nutrients that also act as preservatives (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E), extending both their usefulness as a vitamin and as a preservative. Others may add processed, indigestible fibre ingredients to fat-rich products to maintain the “creamy” texture of the product while decreasing the calorie content, but unintended consequences may result, as the decrease in the fat content and the increase in carbohydrate (i.e., fibre) content to some products may increase the potential for bacterial growth or degradation of key flavour notes, effectively decreasing the overall shelf-life of the product. The balance between innovative new ingredients and maintaining long-term shelf stability and consumer acceptance is difficult to achieve. New food ingredients must be rigorously evaluated for stability, functionality, and safety when in their final products for determination of overall marketability; further, these studies must be completed utilizing validated methodology in order to document the accuracy and repeatability of the results.
Not only are direct food ingredients being modified to meet consumer’s needs of freshness and safety, but food packaging is also undergoing significant innovation. Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Food Contact Materials evaluated the safety of titanium nitride nanoparticles for use in food contact materials, and found them to be safe for their intended use in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic containers under conditions including hot-fill (temperatures of 82.2°C or above) and long-term storage. As with most ingredients (those directly added to food and those that may indirectly become a component of the food through direct contact), the intended use and the ability of the body to absorb the substance has a great effect on determining the safety of a food ingredient. In the case of the titanium nitride nanoparticles, the conclusion that the nanoparticles did not migrate from the packaging into the food was a critical factor in determining the safety of...
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