Using pulsed light to boost food safety of frozen vegetables
A large processor of frozen and canned vegetables in Canada is looking to add a new tool to its roster of processes to ensure safety of its food products.
Bonduelle North America is exploring how to best apply pulsed light technology during a final stage of processing as an additional step to ensure its frozen vegetables are listeria-free. Listeria is a leading cause of foodborne illness and a priority pathogen in the processed frozen vegetable sector. The project is part of the Canadian Food Innovators (CFI-ICA) research cluster, “Using science and innovation to strengthen Canada’s value-added food industry.”
This is part of funding previously announced by the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, of up to $4.6 million to the Food and Beverage Cluster through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriScience Program. The cluster, led by the Canadian Food Innovators (CFI), included an additional $2 million in contributions from industry, for a total investment of $6.6 million.
“Canadians and consumers around the world trust Canada’s high-quality agricultural products, said Minister Bibeau. This initiative will help ensure Canadian processors are at the forefront of innovation, while keeping their industry competitive and strong.”
Bonduelle is working with food technology center Cintech Agroalimentaire in St Hyacinthe to determine how well the process would work on listeria and how to best optimize and scale the technology for a food processing environment. Researchers are experimenting with different exposure times and energy levels using various application processes to find the optimal set-up for peas, corn, green beans and sliced carrots.
“Food safety is always important and with pathogens always present and around the corner, we need to continually be developing new tools,” explains Louis Falardeau, R&D Director with Bonduelle. “Our goal is an additional hurdle for any potential pathogens before going to market. Even though the potential for contamination is already very limited at this point, this is an extra tool in addition to those we are already using.”
In addition to food safety, the technology could improve market access for frozen vegetables by reducing the need for costly, time-consuming testing. There is also potential to reduce food waste by decreasing the amount of rejected product which ultimately ends up in land fills.
“This project is an excellent example of the food processing innovation we can foster in Canada when we harness the strength of our food technology centres and bring them into collaboration with industry partners,” says CFI-ICA Chair Joe Lake, Director of Innovation & Research at McCain Foods Limited.
More information about the project, including a video, is available at https://canadianfoodinnovators.ca/project/using-pulsed-light-to-boost-safety-of-frozen-vegetables.