In most cases, the production of safe food products requires some form of heat treatment and, in traditional heating methods, the result is often a loss of nutritional quality.
This is because the heat is generated outside the food and transmitted to it by conduction and/or convection. With products containing particles, like fruit or vegetable pieces, this often causes overheating of the liquid within the food - in order to achieve sufficient heating of the solids.
With a €693,000 envelope from the EU, the pan-European project FOODPRO aims to develop an alternative heating process through the use of ohmic heating - a process that heats food material internally by passing an electric current through it.
The project, co-ordinated by C-Tech Innovation, will set out to improve taste and nutritional content, maintain or improve microbial safety, reduce the need of chemical additives, and improve the market value of products due to improved consumer demand.
"Taking part in projects like this provides real contacts with organisations who would actually buy the end product. Their involvement allows partners to realise the time it takes to carry out research in the development process. Other participants have already expressed a desire to buy the final product," said co-ordinator Michael Harrison.
He estimates that the total project costs are in the region of €1.12 million, with more than 50 per cent provided by the EU's 'framework programme'. Participants in the project include the UK, Slovakia, Sweden, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.