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Method for improving the quality of frozen foods by assisting the freezing process and reducing the size of the ice crystals (MINICRYSTAL)
Start date: Oct 1, 2008, End date: Sep 30, 2010 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Freezing is a very widespread process within the food processing industry, being used not only to manufacture products that are consumed in frozen state, such as ice cream, frozen yoghurts, sorbets, etc, but also as a very important means of preserving fresh foodstuffs. However, freezing animal and plant tissues causes many irreversible physical and chemical changes within the food matrix, often leaving the final product with lower eating quality than when it was in the fresh state. Ice crystals represent one of the key contributors to quality degradation in frozen foods. As they grow in size, they exert additional stresses on fragile cellular structures and can damage emulsions and lead to negative product characteristics such as poor appearance, unacceptable texture and physical and nutritional product damage. In short, smaller ice crystals promote a better quality product and control of the crystal size distribution in the final product is one of the most important aspects for many freezing operations. As quality issues take increasing precedence among EU consumers, a key challenge facing frozen food manufacturers is how to reposition their products as health-friendly. Consumers not only instinctively believe that fresh food tastes better than frozen food- they also see frozen foods as cheap and inferior. In response, this project will build upon promising research in the ability of high powered ultrasound (HPU) to initiate ice nucleation and to control crystal size distribution in the frozen product during solidification of liquid food. Past research has also shown promise for HPU to shorten the freezing process and lead to a product of better quality. This project will design and develop a prototype HPU system for its industrial validation in food freezing facilities. It will be cost-effective and easy to operate and easily integrated with commercially available freezing equipment."

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