Advancing the Use of UVC Light Technology in Food Processing

Ultraviolet-C (UVC) light is now used to treat drinking water effectively and shows great promise for food processing.

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By Nancy Mann Jackson

Ultraviolet-C (UVC) light is now used to treat drinking water effectively and shows great promise for food processing. According to the speakers in IFT20 session 126, it’s an organic technology that is non-thermal, non-chemical, and non-ionizing, so it’s less expensive and requires less energy than heat, which is commonly used for food processing.

However, implementing UVC technology for food processing is easier said than done. In this session, several scientists and experts discuss the particular challenges—and the solutions for moving forward—with UVC technology implementation.

For instance, there is a clear need for sustainable solutions in food processing, and there’s widespread agreement on UV as a best available technology, says Phyllis Posy, president of PosyGlobal, but there’s not yet agreement on where and when to use UVC for food processing and preservation. Understanding of the interaction and toxicology of UVC has improved, and innovations such as traceability simplify delivery systems and light sources.

However, challenges persist. There is no regulatory framework or common vocabulary regarding dose measurement or validation. Operational conditions determine the efficiency of UVC, and it affects vitamins and proteins differently. For instance, Posy muses, would treatment by UVC light change the level of vitamin D or protein of milk?

The industry may not yet know the answer to that question or others like it, but Posy and the other speakers believe those answers may be within grasp. Posy outlines a vision for how the work conducted to validate UV for treating drinking water can transfer to food processing.

Mohammed Farid, from the University of Auckland, details how UV light could treat foods, such as increasing the shelf life of milk by inactivating spores. His research shows how emerging technologies using UVC light can inactivate microorganisms or spores at lower temperatures to reduce contamination in milk. Extending the shelf life of products like milk are especially important for New Zealand, which is “far away from everywhere and produces large quantities of milk to be transported elsewhere,” he says.


Learn more about UVC’s potential in the food industry to help address safety, shelf-life, and quality issues from five experts by viewing Session 126 in the on-demand library.  

Registration for SHIFT20 provides access to the on-demand library of sessions for a full year.

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer based in Huntsville, Ala.

Kelly Hensel

Senior Digital Editor, IFT

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