Friday, 27 November 2009

The supercritical fluids and its impact in the new generation of natural additives

The use of food additives is a very old practice. In the past, it was very common to use, for example, salt to preserve fish and meat; sugar to preserve fruits or herbs to improve the food taste. Same as in the past, in the food processing industry the use of additives is much extended.

Food additives are substances intentionally added to food for a technological purpose like colouring, sweetening or preserve a product. The idea behind the use of additives is to avoid deterioration or improve the quality/aspect of the product, and not to become a product of lower quality in a better one.

Food habits are changing constantly and consumers are more and more demanding with food they buy and with its manufacturers. The new food technologies are being rapidly accepted while at the same time consumers request more healthy and natural products. Such products should have high sensory quality, keeping their nutritional properties but minimizing the “technological interventions” and the use of artificial additives including flavourings. The latter shows the consumers current concern about characteristics like “bio”, “eco” or sustainable.

In consequence, the market trend is going to the production of natural products and additives, being the last one an important part of processed food. In such a way, the companies which work developing additives are moving to the “natural” side, pushed by a more demanding and restrictive law in the use of synthetic products and by the consumer demands.

On the other hand, in the last decade, the extraction of additives from vegetable and animal sources or from food industry by-products has rise as a result of the huge benefits coming from their use in the food industry. The use of Supercritical Fluids technology in such process has been confirmed by numerous research works published in the last years. This technology is classified like “green chemistry” due to the no use of harmful solvents during the extraction process.

As it was mentioned before, the market trend is moving to the consumption of natural products and, food additives, as a part of them, should integrate to this trend. Therefore, companies which develop this kind of products have to look for valid alternatives to replace synthetic products.

Due to the food companies’ increasing concern about the use of organic solvents and their further treatment after their use, the supercritical fluid technology is becoming more and more popular. The future shows promising for this technology for its use in extraction processes and in other food industry fields.

X. CarriĆ³n. Alimarket. Novembre 2009

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