There is a clear need for application of proper methods for measuring food quality and safety in the globalized food-webs. Numerous instrumental methods have been established in the course of the 20th century and are developing further, together with data analysis techniques, for such purposes. Among them, near-infrared and fluorescence spectroscopic methods and chemical sensor arrays called electronic noses show particular promise for rapid, non-destructive, non-invasive and cost-effective ways for assessing changes and enhancing control during processing and storage of foods. Their key advantages as analytical tools are 1) their relatively high speed of analysis, 2) the lack of a need to carry out complex sample preparation or processing, 3) their relatively low cost, and 4) their suitability for on-line monitoring or quality control. The present survey attempts to demonstrate examples from the above areas, limiting itself mainly to monitoring some quality indices which contribute to the functionality or acceptability of foods as affected by alternative processing technologies, or loss of freshness/microbial safety, or developing spoilage during storage and marketing. These instrumental methods are correlative techniques: they must be calibrated first against (traditional) reference properties, and the instrumental data are evaluated with the help of chemometric methods. Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy can be used in either the reflectance or the transmittance mode. NIR spectra transformed to mathematical derivatives allows subtle spectrum changes to be resolved. Selected examples from the extensive NIRS literature relate to assessment of the quality of frozen fish, predicting cooking loss of chicken patties, detecting complex physico-chemical changes of minced meat as a function of the intensity of high hydrostatic pressure treatment, comparing changes of NIR spectrometric “fingerprints” caused by gamma radiation or high pressure pasteurization of liquid egg white. Changes of NIR spectra reflect several parameters which suit the evaluation of loss of freshness, and onset of spoilage of various foods. NIR spectroscopy shows an application potential for rapid detection of bacterial or mould contamination. It may serve as a tool for detecting initial stages of mobilization processes during germination of cereal grains, or even for GMO screening. Spectrofluorometic measurements have shown potential, e.g. to monitor lipid oxidation and development of meat rancidity, to differentiate between raw and processed milks, and to monitor fish and egg freshness. Electronic noses containing chemical sensor arrays offer a rapid method for evaluation of head-space volatiles of food samples, important for characterizing quality and safety. Such gas sensors may be able to classify storage time, and determine spoilage, either earlier or at the same time as the human senses, or “sniffing out” bacterial pathogens or (toxigenic) fungal growth on certain foods. Electronic nose sensing is also a promising method for detecting quality changes of fruit- and vegetable products non-destructively. In relation to some examples to be presented in the paper, certain software developments as qualitative classification tools made by Hungarian scientists will be pointed out.
Sous-vide treatment is a modern minimal processing cooking technique that uses a single-step temperature of 55–70 °C and longer time. The quality attributes of meat might be improved by including cooking steps at below 50 °C temperatures in the sous-vide treatment. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of the double-step sous-vide treatments on the quality attributes of the chicken breast and comparing with the traditional single-step sous-vide treatments. The single-step sous-vide treatments were performed at 60 °C. In the double-step sous-vide treatments the first step temperature was 45 °C and the end temperature was 60 °C. Double-step sous-vide treated chicken breasts obtained higher tenderness, moisture content and lower weight loss compared to the single-step sous-vide treated chicken breasts. Double-step sous-vide treatment provided an attractive cooking method to produce high quality chicken breast, however, challenge tests for specific pathogens would be useful for the assessment of the microbiological quality for different treatment combinations.
High hydrostatic pressure (HHP) processing technology offers the possibility to preserve quality attributes. Objective test methods describing quality in a complex form have an important role in the development of new products and in the quality assurance of different technologies. Therefore, research was performed to compare the effects of HHP treatment and heat pasteurization on visual appearance, volatile composition, taste and texture properties of strawberry purees measured by sensorial and objective methods. Sensory evaluation did not show significant differences between samples. Similar result was obtained from the color measurements. Viscosity of purees changed only slightly as a result of the treatments. Electronic nose and electronic tongue were found to be promising tools for discrimination of strawberry purees treated by different levels of high hydrostatic pressure or thermal treatment. Canonical discriminant analysis showed that control and “600 MPa for 5 minutes” samples were quite similar. Samples treated by 600 MPa for 15 minutes were distinguished from the above mentioned ones. The heat treated samples (80°C for 5 and 15 minutes) were definitely separated from the control samples. Fusion of the data from the electronic nose and tongue showed the same trend and improved the classification of the treated puree samples.
This work aimed to study the antimicrobial activity of eight various components of plant origin on the growth of Pseudomonas lundensis and Listeria monocytogenes. Different in vitro methods were used: agar plate diffusion, micro atmosphere, agar hole diffusion, micro-dilution, and gradient-plate method. In the first agar plate assay, p-cymene and γ-terpinene did not inhibit the growth of the tested bacteria therefore they were not used in further experiments. Both α-pinene and limonene were only partially effective, but these were screened only for their partial inhibition. The other four components completely inhibited the growth of the tested bacteria. Using the agar-well diffusion method showed that carvacrol and thymol were found to be the most effective active components, thymol had minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) at 1.563 mg/mL, however, in the case of carvacrol, MIC was 7.813 μL/mL. Additionally, eugenol and camphor show the same results but in higher concentrations. Gradient plate method was used to determine MIC values, in which it has been proved that carvacrol and thymol possess strong antimicrobial activity, no growth of tested bacteria was observed with carvacrol (100 μL/mL), while thymol exhibited MIC of 1.887 mg/mL against P. lundensis and0.943 mg/mL needed to show complete inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes. Further experiments are needed to determine the optimum concentrations of the active components against P. lundensis and L. monocytogenes.