COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In 2002, the first international workshop related to nonthermal food processing -- that is, preserving food without using heat -- was organized by Ohio State University food engineers and scientists and was hosted on the Columbus campus.
Now, the 2014 International Nonthermal Processing Workshop is returning to its roots, Oct. 22-24.
“Nonthermal Processing Systems for Healthy and Sustainable Foods” is the theme of the conference, said Bala Balasubramaniam, conference organizer and professor of food engineering in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The event is co-sponsored by the Nonthermal Processing Division of the Institute of Food Technologists, the European Federation of Food Science and Technology, and several food industry companies.
Most processed foods available today are heat-processed, Balasubramaniam said. But scientists are evaluating nonthermal processing methods for their effectiveness in killing harmful food pathogens without affecting a food’s nutrients or quality. The idea is to meet consumer demand for healthy, nutritious, preservative-free foods, Balasubramaniam said.
In addition to the workshop, a one-day short course will be held Oct. 21 for food manufacturers who are not currently using nonthermal processing but want to learn about its possibilities.
“This is a good opportunity for food processors in Ohio and elsewhere to get an overview of nonthermal processing,” Balasubramaniam said. “They can hear from the experts, ask questions and be able to make a better-informed decision about potentially using these techniques commercially down the road.”
The annual workshop will be held in Greece and China before returning to the U.S. in 2017.
Processes covered during the workshop and short course include high-pressure processing, pulsed electric fields, irradiation, cold plasma, ultraviolet and pulsed light, ozone processing, and other technologies.
Balasubramaniam is considered an international expert in nonthermal processing, notably in high-pressure processing, which was introduced in the U.S. market in 1997.
Today, high-pressure processing is about a $3 billion segment of the food market, he said, used on foods such as deli meats, salads, salsa, seafood and guacamole.
Currently, the high-pressure fruit juice market is “going wild,” especially with the introduction of Starbucks’ Evolution Fresh juices, Balasubramaniam said. In Europe, some food processors use pulsed electric field processing to preserve juices.
“In the early days, when high-pressure processing was introduced, the driving force was food safety,” Balasubramaniam said. “Today, it’s the health and wellness aspects of foods. You can process lunchmeats without nitrates or other preservatives and still keep them safe from bacteria like Listeria, and the juice industry is interested in preserving nutrients that are normally destroyed by processes that rely on heat.”
The workshop includes an Oct. 24 visit to Avure Technologies’ high-pressure manufacturing plant in Middletown.
Registration is $500 for the workshop and $200 for the short course by Sept. 22, or $600 and $300, respectively, after that date. Discounted student registration is available.
For information or to register, see u.osu.edu/osunonthermal/.