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Prospects of Food Preservation

Date 01.23.2014 | Category: Special Topics
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Consumers demand convenient, fresh-like, healthful and nutritious foods, which should be in spite of a minimal processing microbiologically stable and safe. These expectations have been dominant at the end of the 20th century and are carried over into the new century. I have been invited to contribute a chapter on „Hurdle Technology" (Leistner, in press) to this outstanding work, because hurdle technology is considered to be a significant contribution to sustainable food supply, since it is applicable in industrialized as well as developing countries and is gentle on available resources (energy, equipment, infrastructure), thus hurdle technology fits well into the concept of Sustainability.

The world´s population is growing at an ever-increasing rate and an extra 1.7 million mouths must be fed each week. The population should reach between 7.5 and 8.5 billion by the year 2020, and almost four-fiths of whom will live in tropical countries. Therefore, a sustainable food supply is most urgent in the southern hemisphere of the globe. Recently, food processing and stability based on hurdle technology has received much attention in India (Defense Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), 1999), and it is considered important for the military as well as the civil sector. I have been invited to present a paper on „Hurdle technology and HACCP for shelf stable animal products" at the international conference on „Sustainable Animal Production, Health and Environment: Future Challenges", which was held in 1999 at the C.C.S. Haryana Agricultural University at Hisar, India, and was recently published (Leistner, 2001a). Also in some parts of Africa the concept of mild and effective food preservation based on hurdle technology became known. For instance, Dr Bernard Ejechi from Nigeria is of the opinion that availability of food especially in the developing world is a sine-qua-non for peace world-wide, because „a hungry man is an angry man". Flooding the markets of tropical countries with food from the north cannot sustain availability of food in the area, since such processed foods are either too costly for the average inhabitants or are considered alien due to unusual organopleptic properties. Thus, for the sustainable food supply in tropical countries to be achieved, the focus should be on enhancing production, storage, and processing of tropical foods. Unfortunately, many indigenous foods of tropical countries spoil rapidly and are often sources of food borne disease. In the opinion of Dr Ejechi it is therefore important that the traditional methods of food preparation in tropical regions are better understood, improved upon, and preservation techniques which lead to ambient-stable products are introduced. Ejechi is convinced that hurdle technology would have a major role in these regards. The overall objective should be to develop simple and inexpensive technologies useful for small scale industries to be located in rual areas to stem the rural-urban drift. Thus, people have opportunities in rual areas, stay there and not flee to the already overcrowded cities.

Hurdle Technologies
Since centuries foods have been preserved by heating, chilling, drying, salting, conserving, acidification, oxygen-removal, fermenting, adding various preservatives, etc., and often these methods were applied in combinations. Actually the stability and safety of most preserved foods is based on the application of several preservation methods used in combinations, and this is true for foods of industrialized as well as of developing countries. More recently the underlying principles of these traditional food preservation methods have been defined (i.e., F, t, aw, pH, Eh, competitive flora, various preservatives), and effective limits of these factors for microbial growth, survival, and death were established. Food preservation and also food quality depends in most cases on the empirical and now more often on the deliberate and intelligent application of combined preservative factors, i.e. on so-called hurdle technology. It also became obvious that futuristic food preservation methods (e.g., high hydrostatic pressure, high-intensity pulsed electric fields, high-intensity pulsed light, as well as food irradiation) are most effective in combination with additional hurdles. Therefore, hurdle technology is also the key of food preservation in the future. Basic aspects of hurdle technology ( homeostasis, metabolic exhaustion, stress reactions of microorganisms as well as multitarget preservation of foods) have been recognized (Leistner, 2000b) to be of fundamental importance and are increasingly studied in relation to hurdle technology. Different aspects of improvements of traditional foods and in the development of novel foods via hurdle technology have been covered recently in numerous articles and book chapters. However, the book on "Hurdle Technologies: Combination Treatment for Food Stability, Safety and Quality" is the first work on hurdle technology in which all these aspects, the possibilities and limitations of hurdle technology, are comprehensively outlined and evaluated (Leistner & Gould, 2002).

An attempt is made to forecast the developments in food preservation in the 21st century. However, this is nearly an impossible mission. Just imagine if someone had attempted to predict in the year 1902 the food preservation developments in the 20th century. Nevertheless some predictions are possible, at least as far as which trends of the final decades of the last century will be carried over and probably expanded. It is hoped that the issues discussed and the relevant literature cited are thought-provoking, and helpful for adjusting future research-programs accordingly.

Author: ast
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