Food In Canada


Focus on Food Safety: Processes and Ingredients – Part I

There are a number of processes and ingredients to enhance the safety of foods. Many of the ingredients are considered “natural” and most processes are environmentally friendly:

Bacteria – Non-pathogenic, lactic acid producing bacteria impede the growth of a wide variety of pathogenic organisms by reducing the pH and competing for available nutrients. However, the lactic acid bacteria can accelerate food spoilage. After all, they are living in and off the food substrate they are protecting.

Viruses – It is believed that all bacteria have a virus that preys exclusively upon it. Scientists believe bacterial viruses outnumber their hosts by at least 1, 000 to one. Due to their unique nature, they attack only specific microbes. Products containing food-pathogen specific viruses are now available and approved in Europe and the U.S.

Disinfecting and Cleaning – Tap water can be converted into a powerful disinfectant and a degreaser if mixed with a small amount of table salt and passed through an electric field to produce hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide. So-called electrolyzed water is cheap and effective but does have some limitations.

Ozonated Water – This has been around for decades. Those selling this technology claim that the many issues that plagued this ecologically sound and effective approach to disinfecting surfaces and foods have been addressed.

Nanoparticles – European and U.S. scientists have shown that the metal oxides of magnesium, calcium and zinc, when reduced to particles smaller in size than bacteria, exhibit powerful bactericidal and bacteriostatic effects on a wide variety of food pathogens. The concept is to apply these metals in the form of microdots on the inner surface of food packages.

Irradiation – Although the concepts of irradiating foods with ultra violet light, high-energy electronic beams, X-rays and gamma rays are technologies that have been around for several decades, processors have been reluctant to apply them. However, significant improvements in equipment designs have been made over the years. Their effectiveness and the fact that nothing is added to foods that are treated is appealing at a time when consumer demand for safe food is at an all-time high.

Mechanical – Exposing packaged foods to ultra-high pressures for extended periods of time is a highly effective means of “pasteurizing” foods if the packaging and food can withstand pressures between 58,000 and 87,000 psi. Despite its cost, this technology has been well received around the world.