Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Food Manufacturing
Although aseptic processing and packaging have been around since before the 1940s, it wasn’t until 1982 that the U.S. retail market saw the first major influx of retail aseptic products in the form of juice boxes. That was due to the approval for the use of hydrogen peroxide as a sterilant for packaging materials. This advancement, along with the tetra pack filler, changed the course of food processing. This new, far less expensive package could deliver a good tasting and nutritious beverage to consumers.
Since then, there have been many other advances in both the processing and packaging of aseptically prepared food products. Here are nine advancements in the processing and packaging side of aseptic processing.
High Pressure sterilization: Using very high pressures (100,000psig and greater) has proven to be a very useful way to pasteurize food products. There are currently retail products available that use this technology. However, for sterilization, two methods are being considered: PATS (Pressure Assisted Thermal Sterilization) and TAPS (Thermally Assisted Pressure Sterilization).
Microwave sterilization: Microwave energy has proven to be a rapid way to heat food products in a continuous flow without line restrictions.
Ohmic sterilization: Another rapid means of heating food products with no restrictions in line. This technology has been around for years and has not yet achieved its potential.
Filtration: There is a lot of potential to aseptically add heat-labile ingredients to food products without heat treatment.
Particulate low acid foods: Why has it taken so long to introduce a low acid particulate food product to the U.S. market? What are the hurdles? When might we expect that first product on the grocery shelf? While there have been some impediments to assuring the sterility of particles in a continuous flow, there have also been advancements in this technology such as microbiological markers and passive RFID temperature sensors.
Package Chemical sterilization: Hydrogen Peroxide is not the only option anymore.
Electron Beam package sterilization: There are other options besides chemicals for the sterilization of packaging. There have been advancements made in e-beams and x-rays to sterilize packages in an aseptic system.
Recyclability: Ecological concerns have required us to take a close look as to how packaging can be more “earth friendly.” It’s important to review packages made from trees from responsibly managed forests and package recycling efforts.
Bag fitments: The convenience of bag-in-box has been improving because of advances in the attached valves.
Each of these solutions can help advance the aseptic process for food manufacturers. During PROCESS EXPO University we will evaluate the benefits of each solution and the best fit for processors based on their products.
About the author
Steve Smith is a Processing Specialist at Purdue University. He will be delivering a presentation on aseptic processing and packaging as part of PROCESS EXPO University at PROCESS EXPO 2015.