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sterilization in terms of improved sensory and nutritional quality compared with conventional retorting. These results indicate that microwave sterilization of foods should be a viable industrial process pending approval by the FDA.
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8.6 8.6.1
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OHMIC HEATING Fundamentals
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Ohmic heating is also called electrical resistance heating. It is a direct type of heating where food itself is a conductor of electricity and heat is generated with the passage of alternating electric currents, with frequency of 50 Hz in Europe and 60 Hz in the United States. The heat is generated by the electrical resistance of the food according to Ohm s law. A similarity between OH and MW heating is noted by the fact that the electric energy is converted into thermal energy volumetrically, while the difference is that food subjected to OH is in contact with electrodes. The applicability of OH depends on the electrical conductivity of the material to be heated, which makes foods a good candidate since most foods contain considerable moisture content and dissolved ionic salts. The application of OH in food processing started in the nineteenth century; however, active research on OH applications in foods was mainly conducted in the last two decades (40). Thermal effect is the principal mechanism for OH to inactivate microorganisms. A mild electroporation may also occur during ohmic heating that contributes to bactericidal effect (18). Volumetric heating makes OH rapid in heating rate and relatively uniform in heating pattern, which is expected to improve food quality as compared with conventional heating using conduction, convection, or radiation. A special use of OH is to heat uids containing particulates. Because the heating rate depends on the electrical conductivity of the material, the heating rates in the two phases ( uid and particles) can be adjusted by formulating the ionic contents of the uid and particulate phase to ensure the appropriate levels of electrical conductivity. Heat can be generated faster in the particulate than in the liquid. This is advantageous when compared with conventional heating where heat has to be transferred to particulates from uid, resulting in a signi cantly slower heating rate in the particulates than in the surrounding uid and thus overcooking of the surrounding liquid. Therefore, OH is often considered to be a promising technology for continuous sterilization of liquid particulate mixtures. Other advantages include the limited contact surface between electrodes and food that reduces the risk of fouling (compared with conventional heating), high energy ef ciency because 90% of the electrical energy is converted into heat, and the ease of process control with instant switch-on and shutdown. The major disadvantage, however, is that OH heating is strongly in uenced by the electrical heterogeneity of the food to be heated. There is a complex relationship between temperature, electrical eld distributions, and the shape and orientation of
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Schematic diagram showing the principle of OH.
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particulates in the uid, which causes nonuniformity in temperature distribution and increases the dif culty in process control and monitoring (41). 8.6.2 Technical Design An ohmic heater consists of a pair of electrodes, a container for the food to be processed, and an alternating power supply (Fig. 8.9). The electrode materials need to be inert and must not release metal ions into foods. Currently, both batch and continuous processes are being considered. For continuous processing, the electric eld can be either perpendicular to the ow (cross- eld) or parallel to ow (in- eld). The most important parameter in OH is the electrical conductivity of the food, which increases with the increase in ion content of a food. Food products can be formulated with salts to achieve uniform ohmic heating. The electric eld strength can be adjusted by changing the electrode gap and the applied voltage. Particle orientation and geometry directly in uence the heating rate of the different constituents of a liquid food (40). Similar to dielectric heating, ohmic heating also has runaway heating problems because the electrical conductivity of most foods increases with temperature (18). 8.6.3 Research Status and Applications
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Research conducted on OH applications in fruits, vegetables, meat products, and surimi has demonstrated its ability to improve heating uniformity and food quality with minimal structural, nutritional, or sensory changes (42). Food applications of ohmic heating include blanching, evaporation, dehydration, fermentation, and extraction. Most industrial applications are in Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States (41). Studies investigating the effect of pasteurization and sterilization of ohmic heating on a number of food products have indicated that OH is effective in inactivating bacteria, spores, yeast, and mold (18). Furthermore, since ohmic heating system does not involve mechanical agitation that is often present in a conventional heat exchanger, particle integrity is maintained for particles up to 2 cm in diameter, improving attractive appearance and textural properties of treated foods (43).
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