Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology is being investigated by researchers at the University of Otago, Canada, for its use in food processing. The group have used PEF to produce a less costly and wasteful, and even healthier, French fry.
The technology uses electricity pulses that last microseconds to disrupt the cell membrane of the chosen material – in this case the French fry – to alter its microstructure. This disruption of the French fry causes a more controlled release of sugar, more uniform colouration, and a reduced uptake in oil.
PEF is already used across the food industry, acting in some cases as an alternative to pasteurisation of liquids, and the technology is known to produce high yields, improved quality, and has the ability to destroy microorganisms.
The French fry project will last three months but is part of a wider NZ$16.8m industry pilot programme from the Ministry for Business and Innovation, called the Food Industry Enabling Technology programme, that is running from 2015 to 2021.
‘With the equipment now in New Zealand we are excited to begin the industrial trial with the hope of proving the techniques, and in time enabling New Zealand food industries to benefit from this new technology,’ said Prof Indrawati Oey, team leader and Head of Otago’s Department of Food Sciences.
‘PEF also has potential to enhance the quality and value of many other New Zealand agricultural and horticultural products,’ she said.
By Georgina Hines