Infrared, Water, and Spiral Pasteurization: What’s the Difference?

Spiral Pasteurizer

Recalls have hit the food industry very hard so far this year. And with FSMA bringing increased inspections and enforcement, they are likely to start hitting even harder.

Many food recalls are due to contamination by bacteria, in particular, Listeria monocytogenes. This is especially a problem with RTE foods, which are often not processed further before consumption.

One highly effective tool in the fight against bacterial contamination of RTE foods is thermal pasteurization, which inactivates pathogens and makes RTE food safe to eat. This article reviews three main types of thermal pasteurization — infrared, water, and spiral — to help you decide which approach is best for you.

Infrared pasteurization

Over the past decade, the use of infrared heat has grown substantially in many areas of food processing.

In this article in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, Krishnamurthy and colleagues found that, compared to conventional heating, infrared heating has many advantages. Notable, it’s more efficient, provides a higher degree of process control, and enables a cleaner working environment.

The authors also found that, when used correctly, infrared heating does not adversely affect either the nutritional or sensory qualities of the food products.

Unitherm’s infrared pasteurization is a post-process, pre-package surface pasteurization method for RTE deli products, such as turkey, ham, and roast beef. This means the product is cooked, chilled, and then pasteurized just before final packaging, which saves you money because the product is packaged only once.

A key advantage of this method is that there is no double cooking or handling involved. This method results in a 3.0-log reduction in Listeria monocytogenes in just 45 seconds, with less than 2% yield loss, and is approved by the USDA FSIS.

Learn more about Unitherm’s infrared pasteurizing solutions.

Water pasteurization

Water pasteurization is also commonly used for RTE deli products. However, rather than being a pre-package process, it’s a post-package one. This means that the product is cooked, chilled, packaged, and then pasteurized in a water bath for 2 to 3 minutes. Studies have shown that this method can easily provide 2-log reductions in Listeria monocytogenes with minimal heating.

A key advantage of this method is that, since the product is already in final packaging before pasteurization, there is no double-handling.

Unitherm’s water pasteurization process can increase the shelf-life of products by up to 50% with no yield loss. The machines comply with AMI sanitary design requirements and are approved by the USDA FSIS.

Learn more about Unitherm’s water pasteurizing solutions.

Spiral pasteurization

Spiral pasteurization — called thus because the equipment uses a spiral heat exchanger — is a very popular method of reducing the risk of contamination. Spiral pasteurizers are excellent examples of sanitary design — they have a small footprint and are very easy to clean. The process is also energy efficient and, like water pasteurization, can significantly increase the shelf-life of products.

Unitherm’s spiral pasteurization is a post-process, post-packaging method for RTE products, including ready meals, trays, bowls, and pouches. The spiral pasteurizers are purpose-built and can operate with either dry heat or steam. They also provide real-time data tracking, which is crucial for evaluating critical control points. This method is approved by the USDA FSIS.

Learn more about Unitherm’s spiral pasteurizing solutions.

Interested in seeing these systems at work first-hand? Bring your products to a Unitherm Solution Center and give them a test drive. You can also evaluate our other cooking technologies to find the one that best meets your needs. Schedule your visit today.

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