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Microwave pasteurization of shell eggs is feasible.

Mention microwave heating of a shell egg to anyone, and the most common comment concerns its apparently inevitable explosion. But such an explosion is not inevitable. Furthermore, the microwave heating of shell eggs provides an opportunity to significantly improve current shell egg thermal pasteurization technology.

The current pasteurization technique is a batch operation. It involves immersing the eggs in hot water and requires an hour to complete. On the other hand, through the utilization of microwave energy, a continuous and dry thermal pasteurization process requiring as little as 10 minutes to complete may be possible. Although the viability of such an approach had not been demonstrated, thanks to researchers, it now appears that the shell egg is suited for pasteurization in a microwave environment.

A project was undertaken at the National Center for Food Safety and Technology to examine microwave heating of the shell egg. Researchers measured the thermal and dielectric properties of the egg components. They mathematically modeled the shell egg heating behavior in a single mode microwave field. They experimentally verified the results of the model simulations. In addition, scientists measured Salmonella growth in yolk and albumen to determine where growth can be expected.

Of the two primary egg constituents, the albumen is the primary infection site as well as the primary target of microwave heating. Although heating uniformity is still an issue in a single-mode waveguide, a properly oriented egg rotating in the microwave field is mostly uniformly heated. Various parts of the egg would heat well, but not all at one location within the applicator. This meant that researchers would have to move the egg within the applicator or design multiple applicators to be used in series.

Better yet, a more sophisticated applicator design may allow the egg to stay still, or allow motion in only one dimension, so that eggs could "flow" through the process without stopping. Ultimately nothing should preclude the use of microwaves in this capacity and any issues can be resolved with the proper engineering of the process.

Further information. Gregory Fleischman, National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology, Moffett Campus, 6502 S. Archer Rd., Summit-Argo, IL 60501; phone: 708-728-4122; fax: 708-728-4177; email: gregory.fleischman@fda.hhs.gov <mailto:gregory.fleischman@fda.hhs.gov>.
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:376
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