The demand for natural food products with a high degree of freshness is continuously growing. At the same time, distribution networks are becoming more and more extensive meaning that ever higher requirements are being put on the quality and shelf-life of food products.
The identification of product-specific spoiling processes provides the basis for customized measures to prolong the shelf-life of foods. We analyze foods and food ingredients for quality changes along the entire value-creation chain using standard methods for characterization of their physicochemical properties. By carrying out chemical, physical, microbiological, and sensory analyses and mathematical modeling we determine the shelf-life of foods and identify measures to prolong the shelf-life.
The shelf-life of a food depends on a variety of factors such as the food composition, degree of processing, the packaging, and storage conditions. Storage tests under relevant practical conditions provide us with key information and enable us to quantify and evaluate the shelf-life. We perform chemical, physical, microbiological, and sensory analyses to record changes to key quality parameters. We also determine the factors (formulation, packaging, storage conditions) which affect product-specific spoiling processes.
Dynamic changes to product quality under different storage conditions are simulated using mathematical models. This simulation utilizes a comprehensive database of analytical results. Using selected key data this enables rapid shelf-life prognosis and enables the potential effects of new product compositions and packaging to be determined.
In order to measure product quality along the value-creation chain, the Fraunhofer IVV scientists are developing rapid methods based on, for example, infrared spectroscopy. The use of a miniaturized spectrometer (the so-called Food Scanner) enables the quality of a food product to be measured in a single scanning step and utilized for the mathematical models for shelf-life estimation. This will facilitate quality assurance and contribute to reducing food loss and waste.
When developing customized concepts for prolonged shelf-life we take into account the product-specific properties and spoiling processes. Depending on the objective we evaluate the effectiveness of functional ingredients, modified manufacturing processes, and optimized packaging. We consider all the processing steps, from the product formulation and processing through to the packaging and storage.
Key aspects of our research on prolonging the shelf-life for foods include the evaluation of physical methods for the non-thermal surface sterilization of foods (e.g. cold gas plasma, novel UV sources), the use of antimicrobial plant extracts (e.g. hops) as an alternative to conventional preservatives, and the use of active packaging (e.g. packaging containing oxygen scavengers). In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of these technological strategies we also consider their effect on the product quality in order to identify the optimal process parameters.
The spoiling of a food and quality changes are the result of chemical, physical, and microbiological processes. These spoiling processes are specific to a food. We can help you identify product-specific spoiling indicators and monitor lead substances that are formed during the aging or spoiling of a food product.
The quantification of lead substances and the correlation with key quality parameters allows rapid evaluation of the freshness of a product. This greatly facilitates quality monitoring during product manufacture and distribution.