Wageningen Food & Biobased Research investigates how freezing affects food products at micro to macro scale and how the freezing process can be optimised from product and energy perspective.
Many processed food products – from fish, topastries and fruit – are frozen, either in transit between processing steps or as consumer product. Freezing temporarily prevents food spoilage and therefore increases a product’s shelf life but is also linked to quality problems. Freezing, thawing and tempering (defrosting to -3°C) often lead to irreversible changes in product composition and texture: the formed ice crystals damage cell structures and dehydrate the product, which causes protein denaturation and changes water-binding and water-distribution. Such quality changes are often invisibleto the naked eye. This makes it difficult for food manufacturers and chill/freezeprocessors to optimise the quality and cost of their processing chain. Understanding the effects of freezing process parameters and storage temperature on the formationof ice crystals, the change in water-binding capacity and microbiology isessential.
Freezing, thawing and tempering
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research gives food manufacturers and processors a deeper understanding of freezing processes and its effects on product quality. We follow a unique, integrated approach, examining and explaining effects of freezing, thawing and tempering at different scales fromfreezing tunnel to product micro level. We investigate how freezing process conditions and storage temperature affect a product’s freezing rate, ice-crystal formation, water distribution, liquid-glass transition and resulting water-binding capacity as well as microbiology. Key point is to take into account the composition-dependent freeze concentration: increasing concentration of salts and other solids in thefluid fraction (and subsequent freezing point lowering) during ice crystalsformation. This subsequently leads to physico-chemical, enzymatic and microbialchanges. By combination of product and process level models, we reduce the needfor extensive, expensive experiments.
Optimal freezing process
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research supports a wide range of manufacturers in optimising freezing processes in their production chain. Recently we investigated the impact on product quality of different stages in a fish chain during transport, processing and packaging. For a client in the snack industry we clarified effects of analternative freezing system on product quality. For fruit-processing industry we analysed suitability of alternative tempering methods (based on radio frequencyenergy) for reducing cell damage – and thereby water migration - in soft, vulnerable fruits such as strawberries. We supported other clients in reducing moisture and subsequent quality loss and choosing most appropriate cooling/freezing process.
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