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T. Contis et al. (Editors)Food Flavors: Formation, Analysis and Packaging Influences© 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved 627
Evaluation of shelf life of flavored dehydrated productsusing accelerated shelf life testing and the WeibuU Hazardsensory analysis
M. Bill and P.S.TaoukisNational Technical University of Athens, Department of Chemical Engineering,Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Technology, 15780 Athens, GREECE
The shelf life of foods is a function of their composition, processing, packagingand environmental factors, most notably temperature. For dehydrated foods, endof shelf life is usually signaled by an unacceptable loss of sensory attributes.Since the time to reach this level of unacceptabihty, under normal storageconditions, is targeted to be 12 to 24 months, techniques of Accelerated Shelf LifeTesting (ASLT) are employed to determine the shelf life of such products within areasonable length of time. Use of Weibull Hazard Analysis facilitates theeffective application of ASLT with sensory evaluation by allowing the use of apractical panel size and easy quantitation of the results. These can be used tomodel the shelf life behavior and to extrapolate from accelerated to normalconditions. The degradation of the intense sweetener aspartame was studied ina gelatin-based dessert with a fruity flavor. Tests were conducted at 45, 50 and60°C and the end of shelf life, expressed as unacceptably low level of sweetness,was determined by sensory evaluation as 70.4, 51.9 and 24.3 days respectively.An activation energy of degradation of aspartame, E^, was calculated as 15.1kcal/mol, from which a shelf life for the product stored at 20°C of 554 days wasestimated. Sensory results correlated very well with HPLC measurements of theaspartame degradation giving practically the same E^, and showing that end ofshelf life coincided in all cases with 60% remaining aspartame.
Quality and shelf life are food product attributes that interest all partiesinvolved namely, producers, food scientists, food manufacturers, legislators andfood control authorities and consumers. Despite the wide use of these terms anda tendency to consider them as self explanatory, their definitions and theapproaches to quantify them can vary considerably, often being product typespecific or dependent on their intended use. An early comprehensive definitionof food quality, conforming to the current attitudes and terminology, was given
628by Kramer and Twigg [1] as "the assemblage of properties which differentiateindividual units and influence the degree of acceptability of the food by theconsumer or user". As foods are intrinsically active systems, bothphysicochemically and biologically, there is a finite time period after productionduring which they retain a required level of quality, organoleptically andsafetywise. This is the
shelf life
of the food product.There are different working definitions of shelf life.
High Quality Life
(HQL)is the time from production of the food for a just noticeable sensory difference todevelop.
Practical Storage Life
(PSL) is the period of proper storage afterprocessing of an initially high quality product during which the organolepticquality remains suitable for consumption or for the intended process. PSL can betwo to three times longer than HQL.
Time of minimum durability
is the timeduring which the foodstuff retains its specific properties under reference storageconditions. This definition refers to product characteristics and not toconsiderations of its use. However, characteristic properties (e.g. flavors) areoverlaid, and it has to be considered when the change in a certain characteristic(such as flavor loss or off flavor development) is detectable by the consumer. Anyworking definition has to be connected to further guidehnes. Thus the meaningof organoleptic quality has to be accurately defined with reference to appropriatemethodology and criteria for specifying acceptability hmits [2].Sensory evaluation by a trained panel, whereby the food is graded on a"standardized" hedonic scale, usually best approximates the overall quality stateof the food [3]. However, there are difficulties in estabhshing a meaningful scalefor each food product. Even if we can accept an expert panel's results asindicative of consumer preference [4], a cut-off level of acceptability has to be set.The time at which a predecided large percentage of panelists judge the food asbeing just beyond that level is the end of shelf life (PSL).Chemical, microbiological and physical tests are being used alternatively inthe study of food quahty. Characteristics used by the consumer for evaluation ofa product, such as flavor, color and textural properties can be measuredinstrumentally or chemically. The study of the chemical and biological reactionsand physical changes that occur in the food during and after processing allowsthe recognition of those most important to its safety, integrity and overallquality. Physicochemical or microbiological attributes can be used to quantffyquality. They can be correlated to sensory measurements for the food, andvalues corresponding to the lowest Hmit of organoleptic quality can beestablished. However, correlation of values of individual chemical parameters tosensory data is often difficult or even misleading. Overall organoleptic quality isa composite of more than one changing factor [5], and the relative contribution ofeach to the overall quality can vary at different levels of quality or at differentstorage conditions.Despite the aforementioned difficulties, use of appropriate sensorymethodology combined with proper appUcation of chemical kinetic principles tofood quality loss allows for the efficient design of tests and the analysis of theirresults. This can lead to shelf life predicting models.
629The rate of food quality change may, in general, be expressed as; a function ofintrinsic factors, such as the concentration of reactive compounds, inorganiccatalysts, enzymes, reaction inhibitors, pH, water activity, and microflora andextrinsic factors, such as temperature, relative humidity, total pressure andpartial pressure of different gases, Ught and mechanical stress. In low moisturesystems the most important factors are temperature and water activity. Thelatter is controlled by packaging.Loss of shelf life in a food or an individual ingredient is usually evaluated bythe measurement of a characteristic quality index, A. The change of A with time,t, can be usually expressed as:f(A) = k t = kA exp(-EA /RT) t (1)where f(A) is the
quality function
of the food and k the reaction rate constant.The rate constant is an exponential function of inverse absolute temperature, T,given by the shown Arrhenius expression, where k^ is a constant, E^ is theactivation energy of the reaction that controls quality loss and R the universalgas constant. The form of the quality function of the food depends on theapparent reaction order. To study quaUty loss of dehydrated foods that usuallyhave long shelf Uves at ambient temperatures, sometimes in the range of two ormore years. Accelerated Shelf Life Testing (ASLT) techniques are oftenemployed.The concept of ASLT is to determine the shelf life of a food product usingresults from abuse conditions, thus predicting the true shelf life through the useof the Arrhenius equation with extrapolation. That cuts down substantially thetesting time.ASLT principles are applicable to methods using sensory techniques in orderto predict shelf life. There are two main categories of tests that may generally beused for this purpose:
Difference tests
(and especially paired
comparison, duo-trio
-usually in the variation of
difference from control test-
triangle tests)
tests using an appropriate scale
(hedonic or of some specified attribute).A practical approach, which effectively combines ASLT principles and sensorymethodology, is the
Maximum Likelihood Graphical Procedure
WeibullHazard Analysis.
The Weibull method is based on the assumption that at anearly time a moderate level of probability of failure exists. This probability dropsclose to zero until the food approaches the true end of shelf-life, where it risessharply. Thus, the hazard plot, which describes the failure rate, assumes theshape of a bath-tub tj^e curve [5, 6].In this study the shelf life behavior of a fruit-flavored dehydrated dessert mixsweetened with aspartame (APM) was modeled using the described methodology.Aspartame, a-L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanine methyl ester, is an intense sweetenerincreasingly being formulated into a variety of commonly consumed foodproducts. During storage aspartame degrades and a number of decompositionproducts are formed [7]. Aspartame has varying stabiUty in aqueous solutionswith maximum degradation rates at pH 6-7, e.g. a half life of 1 week at 20°C for

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