PEF and You: Understanding Pulsed Electric Field Technology
Food safety probably isn’t the most fun part of your food business operation, but it isn’t an aspect you can ignore. Luckily, scientists are constantly developing new technologies to help your business be safer. Today, we’re talking about an exciting new process that could eventually replace pasteurization: Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology. If you make a product that could potentially host bacteria (i.e., if you make any product at all), read on.
Uh, what did you say?
Here’s the gist, from Food Processing Technology. PEF is “a non-thermal food processing method that can either be used as an additional treatment alongside extraction or cooking of ingredients, or as a measure to inactivate bacteria and microbes within food products, effectively pasteurizing them.” Traditionally, manufacturers that needed to reduce the risk of foodborne illness have used thermal processes like pasteurization to kill bacteria. However, heat treatment can often kill flavors or nutrients that add value to your product. PEF is quicker, doesn’t affect flavor or nutrient profile, and is less resource-intensive. Is PEF the answer to our prayers?
Not quite yet
If your product is 100% dry, unfortunately you won’t be able to utilize PEF. And if you’re a smaller brand, you’re likely to balk at the cost of the equipment required to implement the process. (However, if you’re in the market for a co-packer, they may have access to the technology already. More on that here.) But like all technologies, PEF is likely to become less expensive and more accessible over time.
Want to stay current on when PEF might be available for your growing food brand? Check out FieldFOOD, a group dedicated to researching cost-effective ways to bring this technology to small companies (such as seasonal rentals of small equipment). Staying on top of food processing technologies is imperative if you make a product with any kind of risk profile. Don’t sleep on Pulsed Electric Field!