You are on page 1of 6

Experiment 2: Evaluation of Properties of Foods 2

1. To determine the water activity in different food samples such as marmalade, fruit
cake and honey
2. To determine the total solids in different food samples such as milk, diluted milk and
tomato juice
3. To identify water activity, aW of honey

A) Water Activity
Water activity, aW, is a physical property that has a direct implication for
microbiological safety of food. Water activity also influences the storage stability
Stability of foods as some deteriorative processes in foods are mediated by water.
Storage life of dry foods such as biscuits is generally longer then of moist foods such
as meat at the same temperature. In this connection freezing of foods is equivalent
to drying . The water is removed from the food matrix although it is still in the food
as ice. The aW is related to the boiling and freezing points, equilibrium relative humidity and
osmotic pressure. The aW of a solution is a colligative property. Example, dependent upon
the number of particles (molecules or ions) in solution. Increases in solute concentration
decreases aW. Water activity is an important consideration for food product design and
food safety.
Water activity is used in many cases as a critical control point for Hazard Analysis and
Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs. Samples of the food product are periodically taken
from the production area and tested to ensure water activity values are within a specified
range for food quality and safety. Measurements can be made in as little as five minutes,
and are made regularly in most major food production facilities. For many years,
researchers tried to equate bacterial growth potential with water content. They found that
the values were not universal, but specific to each food product. W. J. Scott first established
that bacterial growth correlated with water activity, not water content, in 1953. It is firmly
established that growth of bacteria is inhibited at specific water activity values. U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for intermediate moisture foods are based on
these values.
Lowering the water activity of a food product should not be seen as a kill step.
Studies in powdered milk show that viable cells can exist at much lower water activity
values, but that they never grow. Over time, bacterial levels decline.

Appendix 1: Red line shows saturation

Water activity is related to water content in a non-linear relationship known as a moisture
sorption isotherm curve. These isotherms are substance- and temperature-specific.
Isotherms can be used to help predict product stability over time in different storage
B) Total Solids
Total solids involves the measurement of the weight lost due to evaporation of
water. These methods rely on measuring the mass of water in a known mass of sample.
The moisture content is determined by measuring the mass of a food before and after
the water is removed by drying. The basic principle:

Water has a lower boiling point than the other major components within foods such
as lipids, protein and carbohydrate.
Sometimes, moisture content also reported as total solid
Total solid is a measure of the amount of material remaining after all the water has
been evaporated

Moisture and total solids contents of food can be calculated using one of the equations
- % Moisture (wt/wt) = wt H2O in sample
X 100
wt of wet sample
- % Moisture (wt/wt) = wt of wet sample - wt of dry sample X 100
wt of wet sample
- % Total solids (wt/wt) = wt of dry sample X 100
wt of wet sample

Water Activity




1st reading

2nd reading

3rd reading


Table 1: Water activity, aW of Honey




Table 2: Water activity, aW in different food samples

Total Solids



Total solids (%)


Tomato juice

12.31 %
3.953 %

Table 3: Total solids, aW in different food samples

Diluted Milk

Weight of
Weight of
Weight of
dried sample
+ aluminium
Total solids

1st reading

2nd reading 3rd reading

54.623 gram

54.590 gram

54.514 gram

10 gram

10 gram

10 gram

55.273 gram

55.202 gram

55.126 gram

6.5 %

6.12 %

6.12 %

6.25 %

Table 4: Total solids, aW of diluted milk

Since yeast, molds and bacteria require a certain amount of available water to support
growth, designing a product with an aw below 0.6 provides an effective control. Water
activity is defined as the equilibrium relative humidity (ERH) divided by 100. Some common
spoilage organisms and their aw limits are listed in Table 1. The simplest way to reduce
water activity is with a process which drives off water - cooking, baking or dehydration. The
high-heat processes also use the lethal properties of heat, while dehydration or freeze
drying only work by lowering the aw to a level that curbs growth.

Water activity better predicts the growth of microorganisms because microorganisms can
only use "available" water, which differs considerably depending on the solute. On average,
ions bind the most water, whereas polymers bind the least water; sugars and peptides fall
into an intermediate position. At the same molecular concentration, salt lowers the water
activity more than sugar.
When a substance is added to lower water activity, the result can be complicated. Ideally,
an inert material could be added which would decrease water activity without any other
effects such as increased ionic strength and decreased surface tension. In reality, the choice
of substance can have a profound effect. For instance, salt could be added to one reaction
mixture and sugar to another. The amounts can be controlled so that the resulting
compounds have identical water activity. But the results of the reaction will differ because
of the differing influences of salt and sugar on biological reactions. Salt and sugar form
different additional hurdles.
That is what happened in my group honey samples. Our honey sample got 0.645 for its
water activity, while the other groups honey sample got 0.615 for its water activity. Both
have the same moisture content but an entirely different water activity. These could be
caused by the difference in production time and also exposed quite a long time before the
experiment start.
While in total solids, my group measured the total solids of diluted milk. In theory, the total
solids (%) of diluted milk should be half of the total solids (%) of milk. But when we got the
result it was not so accurate. The total solids (%) of the normal milk was 12.31 %, while the
total solids of diluted milk was 6.25 %. Major difficulties and source of error are happened
during the total solids experiment such as:
- Incomplete water extraction (fineness of grind is important)
- Atmospheric moisture (external air must not be allowed in infiltrate the reaction

The hypothesis is not accepted because the accuracy measurement of water activity and
total solids (%) is not accurate. For the water activity experiment, the different of honey
sample is 0.03 from the other group. While for total solids, the milk was not diluted