VTT research programme on Minimal Processing: Final report

Raija Ahvenainen, Karin Autio, Ilkka Helander, Kaisu Honkapää, Riitta Kervinen, Arvo Kinnunen, Tiina Luoma, Tuija Lyijynen, Liisa Lähteenmäki, Tiina Mattila-Sandholm, Mirja Mokkila, Eija Skyttä

    Research output: Book/ReportReport


    At the beginning of 1996 VTT Biotechnology started a four-year VTT Research Programme 'Minimal Processing of Foods'. In this programme new, mild, inexpensive and natural methods to improve the shelf-life and safety of foods were to be developed. The aims of the programme were to improve the sensory quality, nutritional properties and safety and increase the competitiveness of food products based on domestic raw materials. A total of 18 different projects were carried out in the Research Programme. Twelve projects involved research cooperation with other national or international research institutes and companies. The main topics were minimization of heat processes, development of active packaging films and improvement of the shelf-life of fresh foods. The most important technologies studied were high pressure technology, supercritical extraction, sous-vide cooking, novel gas packaging methods and materials, coating technology, utilization of protective cultures and application of nisin and other natural compounds such as organic acids, and combined methods (hurdle technology). Furthermore, the potential of various novel physical (e.g. light pulses, electric field pulses, ultrasound) and chemical methods (e.g. mustard oil, lactobionic acid, ozone) for food preservation were preliminarily surveyd. Strategically important in the Programme was that novel methods were studied for real and relevant foodstuffs and food raw materials, and in quality and shelf-life studies both microbiological as well as sensory quality (appearance, flavour, texture) were considered. Most of the available information in the scientific literature deals with the effects of novel methods in laboratory media, or the effects have been studied only to a limited extent, ignoring e.g. the sensory evaluation of the flavour of treated food. The Programme considerably increased knowledge of the possibilities of various novel process and packaging technologies to minimize the harmful effects of processes on the sensory and nutritional quality of food without microbiological safety risks. Optimized processes and recipes, combined methods and integrated approaches were found to be the most promising ways to maintain the quality and ensure the safety of foodstuffs. The significance of quality management from the field to the table or from raw material production to the consumer was emphasized in the Programme. The basics for development of active packaging materials were also created in the programme. Coating technology appeared also to have promising possibilities as a 'precision weapon' in many applications, but still needs further development. High pressure technology will have potential in some special, gourmet food products to ensure shelf-life, but also needs further development. Other novel physical and chemical methods will be promising for ensuring microbial safety and for modification of the texture of food products. In Finland, experimental design or predictive microbiology have hitherto been used very little in product development in the food industry. Improved procedures for optimization of processes and packages were developed in the Programme. Experimental design (e.g. surface response methodology) is an essential tool for optimization. Furthermore, process and recipe improvement is always a multi-stage procedure, in which e.g. computer-based programmes on predictive microbiology will help to reduce the number of experiments and to determine the optimal range of processing temperature and time or recipe conditions. In the Programme, this working approach was launched particularly for the meat and sous-vide industry. The minimal processing concept, as such, was also developed during the programme. It was clearly realized that the concept supports the idea of sustainable development and the imago of health-promoting properties of foodstuffs. From the legislative point of view minimal processing might even be an easier way to develop health-promoting foodstuffs than the approach in which health-promoting compounds are added to the food product. Some companies adopted the concept in their strategy concerning product and process development. They also simplified and optimized their processes. Public awareness about the advantages of minimal processing approach was also increased. Standardisation and legislation are important elements in the development of the minimal processing concept. The Programme took part in the EU FAIR Concerted Action CT96-1020 project 'Harmonization of safety criteria for minimally processed foods'. Recommendations and possible methodologies for standardisation of safety criteria were given in the project. Dissemination of the results of the projects was an essential part of the Programme. The total number of research reports from the projects of the Programme is over one hundred. Some of them are non-public. In addition to these, three annual reports and one report on a trade mark were prepared from the Programme. Altogether 26 original scientific papers have been prepared from the results of the various projects of the Programme. Furthermore, 38 professional publications in international and national magazines have been published. Eighteen invited lectures and 19 scientific posters have been delivered. The amount of other publications (monographs, lectures, processing guides, chapters in books etc.) to date is 44. In addition, one patent application on the pre-treatment of strawberries for freezing and one training video on the treatment of fresh strawberries have been prepared. Six national and seven international seminars were organised entirely or partly by the Minimal Processing Programme.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEspoo
    PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
    Number of pages83
    ISBN (Electronic)951-38-5742-5
    ISBN (Print)951-38-5741-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2000
    MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

    Publication series

    SeriesVTT Tiedotteita - Meddelanden - Research Notes


    • food
    • processing
    • quality
    • shelf life
    • thermal treatment
    • minimization
    • packaging
    • high pressure technology
    • coating technology
    • VTT


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