Powdered foods such as milk powder, egg powder, spices, etc., are widely used as ingredients in manufacturing processed foods or consumed directly by humans and animals for their energy and nutrient contents. Inappropriate and insufficient decontamination have led to numerous outbreaks of foodborne diseases in recent years. Different physical and chemical processes have been used to decontaminate powdered foods. However, these processes have various defects, making their application ineffective and sometime impractical. A UMN team led by Dr. Roger Ruan was awarded $3.6 million to develop and demonstrate technology for non-thermal pasteurization of powdered foods. This Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) project, integrating research with extension activities, addresses the program area “Enhancing Food Safety through Improved Processing Technologies” by developing an intense pulsed light (IPL) based technology for non-thermal pasteurization of powdered foods. IPL is an emerging technology for overcoming these defects. In this project, a continuous IPL process will be investigated for its germicidal effectiveness and also its impacts on physical, chemical, nutritional, and sensory properties of representative powdered foods. A prototype IPL system will be designed and constructed through the consultations with industry partners and stakeholders. The research activities on the system will cover process optimization in lab and the field trials with industry partners, while the extension activities will include workshops to demonstrate its usage to the stakeholders.
In a separate project funded by a major powdered food manufacturer, Dr. Ruan and his co-workers are developing non-thermal plasma based technology to pasteurize milk powder.