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Impact of PEF treatment inhomogeneity such as electric field distribution, flow characteristics and temperature effects on the inactivation of E. coli and milk alkaline phosphatase

Jaeger, Henry, Meneses, Nicolas, Knorr, Dietrich
Innovative food science & emerging technologies 2009 v.10 no.4 pp. 470-480
enzyme inactivation, turbulent flow, mathematical models, cold pasteurization, decontamination, raw milk, bioactive properties, continuous systems, ohmic heating, model validation, pulsed electric fields, spatial variation, temperature, enzyme activity, processing stages, alkaline phosphatase, Escherichia coli
High intensity pulsed electric field (PEF) treatment was investigated focusing on the alteration of electric field distribution, flow characteristics and temperature distribution due to the modification of the treatment chamber. The aim was the improvement of the effectiveness of microbial inactivation of E. coli and to reduce the PEF impact on alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity in raw milk. Mathematical simulation of the PEF process conditions considering different treatment chamber setups was performed prior to experimental verification. Finally the impact of the treatment chamber modifications on microbial inactivation and enzyme activity was determined experimentally. Using a continuous flow-through PEF system and a co-linear treatment chamber configuration the insertion of stainless steel and polypropylene grids was performed to alter the field strength distribution, increase the turbulence kinetic energy and improve the temperature homogeneity. The Finite Element Method (FEM) analysis showed an improved electric field strength distribution with increased average electric field strength and a reduced standard deviation along the center line of the treatment zone indicating a more homogenous electric field. The velocity profile was improved resulting in an increase of turbulence kinetic energy due to the insertion of the grids. As revealed by mathematical modeling, the temperature of the liquid was decreased, and formation of temperature peaks was avoided. Measured inactivation of heat sensitive alkaline phosphatase (ALP) was reduced from 78% residual activity to 92% after PEF treatment and it could be shown that thermal effects and temperature peaks have been the main reason for enzyme inactivation due to PEF. At the same time, an increase of microbial inactivation of 0.6 log-cycles could be determined experimentally due to the modification of the treatment chamber design. Industrial relevance: The application of pulsed electric field as a non-thermal pasteurization technology requires an accurately defined treatment intensity followed by a predictable microbial inactivation. Unavoidable thermal effects occurring during PEF treatment due to ohmic heating have to be minimized to assure the retention of heat-sensitive nutrients and bioactive compounds. The presented investigations contribute to the fulfilment of these requirements for further successful industrial implementation of the PEF technology such as the selective inactivation or retention of enzyme activity in liquid food systems.