Food industrystudies have determined the most important factors to processed food degradation include moisture, temperature, pH, preservatives, and packaging. The industry has developed control parameters to optimize production and packaging to protect their products and improve shelf life. Packaging techniques help maintain a constant environment for the product and can include vacuum sealing, sealing with minimum air head space, and nitrogen purging.
The best packaging of food products still requires that the product being packaged has been manufactured under optimum conditions that include the control of moisture.
Why should you continuously measure moisture in food production?
Food moisture is critical in maintaining texture, shelf life and control of microbial growth. Relative humidity at manufacturing plants varies during the day as heat builds up and fluctuates with the season. Near-infrared (NIR) moisture transmitters supply reliable and accurate measurements online or at-line.
The best way to ensure moisture control is direct moisture measurement at each unit operation and prior to packaging.
Food product temperature and relative humidity during both the manufacturing process and when packaged affect the moisture level of the delivered product and thereby the taste, crispness, and shelf life.
Certain food products – including chips, crisps, curls, crackers, and cereals – require tight moisture specifications. A very low moisture level leads to crumbling and too crisp of a bite. High moisture leads to that soggy bite at a humid picnic, and if too high, microbial growth leading to mold. Dryer, fryer, or baking exit moisture control is critical prior to packaging.
However, moisture is not the only parameter measurable by NIR sensing technology that can affect food shelf life and flavor.
Oil based flavoring sprays can also be measured and controlled at the unit operation with NIR sensors, ensuring product taste consistency and optimizing production costs. Fat and oil measurements are also important in monitoring hydrogenation reactions and enzymatic degradation. Too high an oil level can impart a bitter taste and oxidation level can impact both odor and flavor in undesirable ways. Even normal cereal undergoes fat oxidation.
Take Command of the Entire Food Production Process
From the mixing of ingredients to the packaging of final products for consumers, there are a lot of variables that can impact food quality across the entire production process. Fortunately for producers, most of these variables can be measured with the help of NIR technology, either in a lab setting, or on the production line.
Learn about some KPMAnalytics’ NIR sensing solutions to help improve food shelf, flavor, and consistency.