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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53720. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053720. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

No major differences found between the effects of microwave-based and conventional heat treatment methods on two different liquid foods.

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Department of Environmental Engineering, Institute for Environmental Engineering Systems, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Szent István University, Gödöllő, Hungary.


Extension of shelf life and preservation of products are both very important for the food industry. However, just as with other processes, speed and higher manufacturing performance are also beneficial. Although microwave heating is utilized in a number of industrial processes, there are many unanswered questions about its effects on foods. Here we analyze whether the effects of microwave heating with continuous flow are equivalent to those of traditional heat transfer methods. In our study, the effects of heating of liquid foods by conventional and continuous flow microwave heating were studied. Among other properties, we compared the stability of the liquid foods between the two heat treatments. Our goal was to determine whether the continuous flow microwave heating and the conventional heating methods have the same effects on the liquid foods, and, therefore, whether microwave heat treatment can effectively replace conventional heat treatments. We have compared the colour, separation phenomena of the samples treated by different methods. For milk, we also monitored the total viable cell count, for orange juice, vitamin C contents in addition to the taste of the product by sensory analysis. The majority of the results indicate that the circulating coil microwave method used here is equivalent to the conventional heating method based on thermal conduction and convection. However, some results in the analysis of the milk samples show clear differences between heat transfer methods. According to our results, the colour parameters (lightness, red-green and blue-yellow values) of the microwave treated samples differed not only from the untreated control, but also from the traditional heat treated samples. The differences are visually undetectable, however, they become evident through analytical measurement with spectrophotometer. This finding suggests that besides thermal effects, microwave-based food treatment can alter product properties in other ways as well.

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