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Food Engineering Finds Value in ECS Content on Lethality

In a recent Food Engineering article about complying with FSMA for pet food manufacturing, the following content from ECS was included:

Sidebar: Lethality processing revisited and improved

Following standard cooking procedures is critical in a lethality process. Procedures need to be enforced, and data captured can confirm that the specified length of time and temperature have been met in the cooking process. However, this method can be improved. Cooking, or thermally processing, typically involves heating the product to a pre-determined temperature and holding the temperature for a minimum length of time. But, how variable is this process? The temperature varies with different equipment and can affect the desired result. The choice of “starting time” is another variable, which may be taken to be: when the desired temperature is reached—or is measured from when heating begins. Hence, there is a significant variation in the measured temperature-time profiles required to destroy the pathogens. For example, there is a dramatic decrease in the time required to destroy both salmonella and Listeria in ham, beef and turkey at temperatures above 131°F compared to temperatures below 131°F.The mathematical integration of temperature-time profiles is a measure of the extent of heat exposure of the product. This offers a practical approach to determine the lethality factor for a product. Early efforts to use this approach were limited by the inability of programs such as Excel to carry out the integration.Today’s processors, who incorporate automated processes into control systems, have underutilized functionality that can easily be used to integrate the data collected as temperature-time profiles. The incorporation of a “lethality equipment module,” which uses existing controller instructions to complete the integration of the temperature-time profiles, provides a reliable indicator of the amount of heat exposure of the product.There are several benefits to adopting a lethality module, particularly since improved product quality and quantity is realized, together with the overall reduction in production costs. Other benefits include:

  • Reduction of cooking time
  • Repeatability of cooking exposure
  • Energy conservation
  • The elimination of potential human error since no manual data collection is required

The automated system can proceed without operator intervention once the required lethality exposure has been met.

—John Parraga, ECS Solutions

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