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Alvarez Food industries Center Department of food Science and Technology

V.B. Alvarez/PEF/10-2007


Principle Processing parameters Applications and effects

Pulse electric field (PEF) basic principle

Application of short burst of high voltage (approx. 20-80 kV/cm) to foods placed between two electrodes pulses applied at ambient or refrigerated temperatures for short treatment time of seconds or less Square wave, bipolar, oscillatory pulses or of exponentially decaying waves Aseptic packaging and refrigerated storage after treatment Nonthermal method of food preservation

PEF Principle
Mechanism of inactivation

Non-thermal inactivation of microorganisms that results from the permeabilization or electroporation of the cell membrane Depends on electric field intensity, pulse duration, and number of pulses.


Desbalance Osmotico


Ruptura de la Membrana

Critical process parameters

Electric field strength Total treatment time Pulse width Pulse polarity Treatment temperature Pulsed shape (Square wave, exponential decay, oscillatory pulses) Flow rate Electrical conductivity pH Water activity (aw)

Microbiological resistance

Bacteria > Yeasts Gram (+) > Gram (-)

Bacterial spores & Mold ascospores > Vegetative cells Stationary or Lag growth phase > Logarithmic phase

Pulse electric field (PEF) Microbiology

Log phase cells are more sensitive than stationary phase cells Spores are not inactivated
(Mertens & Knorr, 1992; Gould, 2001)

Pulse Electric Field (PEF) Process Conditions

Intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing effectiveness: More inactivation with rising temperatures Low ionic strength favors inactivation Reduction in pH increase inactivation
(Qin et al., 1994; Jayaram et al., 1992)

PEF process conditions

Resistivity in general decreases as temperature increases Resistivity decreases as ionic strength increases
Hulsheger and Niemann (1980) found the same level of E. coli inactivation in buffers of NaCl, Na2S2O3, NaH2PO4,

The bactericidal effect of PEF is generally inversely proportional to the ionic strength of the material treated
Wouters and Smelt, 1997

PEF: less thermal damage to foods

FLAVOR Cranberry juice treated with PEF was not distinguishable from raw juice, although heat treated juice was. Apple cider treated with PEF had no detectable flavor differences from untreated product when fresh
Orange juice PEF treated at 65oC was preferred over heat pasteurized product, but not over untreated product

PEF: less thermal damage to foods

COLOR Cranberry juice retained more anthocyanin pigments after PEF processing than after heat treatment Tomato salsa processed with PEF retained a brighter red color than heat processed product No significant color differences were seen in orange juice or in apple cider

PEF: less thermal damage to foods

NUTRITIONAL COMPONENTS Vitamin C loss was more significant in heat treated orange juice than in PEF treated juice PROTEIN COAGULATION Coagulation in the treatment chamber leads to reduced flow, non-uniform or over- treatment and eventually plugging of the chamber.

Comparison between thermal processing and PEF

Primarily continuous No Limited None Limited

Mode of operation Batch/continuous Process in Package Chemical changes Physical changes Enzyme Inactivation Yes Many Many Yes

Potential Food Applications Juice Milk Liquid eggs Soups Syrups, sauces Emulsion Flavor ingredients

Electric resistivity of various food materials

Foods Apple juice Orange juice Orange juice conc. Tomato ketchup Crushed tomatoes Milk, skim Milk, raw Yogurt Egg whites Liquid whole egg Electric resistivity ( -cm) 570 234 300 42 125 310 230 169 155 170 Conductivity (mS/cm) 1.8 4.3 3.3 23.8 8.0 3.23 4.4 5.9 6.5 5.9
Zhang, et al., 1994

Test temperature (oC) 15 42 15 15 50 15 20 23 15 21

The importance of pH in PEF formulations

High acid foods are more successfully treated with PEF

Vegetative organisms are more effectively treated at lower pH product is a high acid or acidified food (pH <4.5)

PEF Advantages & disadvantages

High quality fresh-like liquid foods Improve flavor, nutritional value, and Shelf life Foods retain their fresh aroma, taste, and appearance Energy efficient process compare to thermal processing Limitations due to the difficulty of inactivating endospores and low conductivity caused by solids in foods. Regulatory requirements developing Difficult to incorporate necessary equipment into most production areas
(Ramaswamy, 2003)

Combination processes
PEF may offer synergistic effect with
Ultrasound Temperature Chemical & additives
e.g. Bacteriocin

High pressure

Sequential or simultaneous

PEF Work at OSU

Raw & UHT skim milk were PEF processed
0.3 to 3.0 log reduction of P. fluorescens, L. lactis and B. cereus and of total m.o.s in raw skim milk No changes in protein, total solids, color, pH, particle size, and density due to PEF effects Overall effectiveness of PEF vs. Pasteurization (73oC for 30s)
(Alvarez et al., 2003)

Microbial Inactivation of Pulsed Electric Field Treated Milk

Treatment Time (s) 47 0 Log reductions, N/No (cfu mL-1) -0.5 -1 -1.5 -2 -2.5 -3 -3.5 P.fluorescens L. lactis B. cereus Microorganisms in Raw Skim Milk 94 141 188

P. fluorescens

L. lactis


Microorganisms in Raw Skim Milk

Log reduction, N/No (cfu mL-1)

-1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6
Pasteurization PEF

Source: Michalac, Alvarez..., 2003


Principle Processing parameters Applications and effects

References (PEF)
Bendicho, S., Barbosa-canovas, G.V., and Martin, O. 2002. Milk processing by high intensity pulsed electric fields. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 13, 195-204. Michalac, S., Alvarez, V. B., Ji, T., and Zhang, Q. 2003. Inactivation of Selected Microorganisms and Properties of Pulsed Electric Field Processed Milk. J. Food Proc. and Preservation. 27 (2). 137-151. Ramaswamy, R., Jin, T., Balasubramaniam, V.M., and Zhang, H. 2005. Pulsed electric field processing. Factsheet for food processors (FSE 2-05), The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, U.S.A.

Wouters, P.C., Alvarez, I., and Raso, J. 2001. Critical factors determining inactivation kinetics by pulsed electric field food processing. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 12, 112-121.