Ever since humans have known about the dangers microorganisms play, we have been trying to find more effective ways to get rid of them. Decontamination of surgical instruments in healthcare facilities using high temperatures has long been done in an autoclave, a sterilization chamber designed to use higher atmospheric pressures and temperatures to kill contaminants on hardware. The question is, does the same disinfection procedure used for medical devices work for food ingredients?
What is the Meaning of Steam Sterilization?
Steam sterilization is the process of disinfecting items by exposing them to high-pressure steam for a certain amount of time at a set temperature to kill any pathogens or microorganisms living on surfaces. This process can be used for everything from surgical instruments to glassware to food ingredients such as vegetables, spices, and seeds. In food production, this process relies on selectively applying these higher temperatures to ensure that proteins do not begin to break down.
To maintain all the subtle flavors in an ingredient, you need to have a deep and subtle understanding of every element in the steam sterilization process. Sterilization temperature matters, but atmospheric pressure, exposure time, steam penetration, and other factors can affect both the lethality of the sterilization process and the preservation of flavors and textures in the food you are trying to sanitize.
As consumer trends continue to turn toward healthier eating, products like sweet potatoes (both orange and purple) and kale that have a reputation for healthy, all-natural nutrition are getting more notice. The catch is you only get the benefits of these ingredients if you can be assured they are clean and free of any microorganisms that might be coming along for the ride.
Infrared Treatment in Food Production
Steam sterilization, though popular, is by no means the only form of heat treatment available in the food and beverage industry. Infrared treatment is a newer technology that uses light to gently remove microbial contaminants from the surface of food particles. Heat from infrared light is applied as food is passed through a rotating drum, which provides a gentle process for reducing microbial populations on the surface of food particles.
The key to successfully heat treating ingredients is to know which treatment method will be most effective at eliminating any potential contaminants while simultaneously preserving the flavor, color, and nutritional value of the food itself. While steam sterilization is ideal for some vegetables, seeds, and spices, infrared treatment can sometimes offer a superior result.
Silva International has gone through rigorous testing around both of our heat treatment processes. As you can imagine, a sweet potato dice and a spinach flake will need different process parameters in order to effectively treat microorganisms, while keeping the integrity of the ingredient. Silva has more than 10 years of heat treatment experience in order to achieve exactly that. Additionally, both of our processes are validated through a third party food laboratory to ensure the effectiveness of our treatment.
Quality Control in Sterilization
At Silva, we have the experience, expertise, and the dedication to quality it takes to ensure our products meet the highest standards. That means we pay attention to every detail in how every one of our products is processed.
We also know that part of our commitment to sustainability means using environmentally friendly processing techniques wherever possible. With steam sterilization, our Zero-Ox sterilization, and infrared treatment options, we have the flexibility to apply the best disinfection techniques without introducing harsh chemicals into the ingredients that end up in your end products.
Part of the Silva good-for-you promise is that for every ingredient we supply, every step from start to finish is carefully controlled. You can have the confidence that all our ready-to-eat ingredients have been given the care you would expect from an industry leader. This is all part of how good-for-you gets done.