From Irish apple cider to Italian tomatoes: discussing 'pulse electric field' technology in

July 03, 2017

On May 11 and 12, 2017, the EU-funded FieldFOOD project gathered in Vienna to discuss the results of various pilots concentrating on the PEF-treatment of crops. EFFoST is one of the consortium parties and is responsible for the dissemination, communication and exploitation of the project results.

The project meeting was (for some) part of a larger program that week: the 4th School on Pulsed Electric Field Applications in Food and Biotechnology. The aim of this program is to offer students, academics and industrial researchers the opportunity to improve their knowledge of PEF and electroporation technology. You can read more on the PEF School further in this newsletter.

The 2nd annual meeting focused mainly on the results of the various pilots with the PEF technology. The pilots took place in various product categories: tomatoes, olive oil, wine, fruit juices and cider. The consortium partners active in these product categories presented the results of the PEF treatment which showed varying degrees of effectiveness.

In the case of grapes and wine the positive effects of the PEF treatment were evident. PEF treated grapes showed a significantly higher extraction compared to non-treated grapes, in particular for the tannins and anthocyanins which increased strongly. Another important outcome was the reduction of the maceration time while maintaining the same level of extraction.

In the case of olives and olive oil, the results are very divergent – especially in extraction. In some cases, PEF treatment lead to a higher extraction of oil, while in other instances non-treatment resulted in a higher extraction. In this case, more data is needed to understand the effect of PEF and the influence of the raw material on the extraction yield.

Another pilot focused on the application of PEF technology to process tomatoes – which resulted in some promising results. The PEF treatment for tomatoes, in this case, is used to improve the separation of the skin from the pulp. On one hand, the PEF treatment makes the tomato pulp below the skin more wet and on the other hand it decreases the firmness and strength of the skin. This leads to a much greater ease of peeling tomatoes.

In the case of cider and fruit juice, there were also mixed results. For the fruit juices (apple and strawberry), the application of PEF technology typically resulted in higher extraction yields, but in the case of the cider production, the extraction seemed to be influenced by several factors, including the temperature and the hardness of the apples. However, the use of PEF for pasteurization was shown to effectively inactivate microorganisms in both fruit juices and cider. Overall, more testing and data will be required to understand the variables in play and the effects.

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