Over the years, food preferences have changed all throughout the world. Today we have a new generation of food products that are less processed; people want food that is closer to the natural state. We buy lots of imported fresh produce today that wasn't available 10 to 20 years ago. We go to the grocery market where we might buy prepared bagged lettuce and other pre-cut and washed vegetables.
And, there are a substantial number of people across the world who consume raw oysters or salmon, and a variety of under-cooked products. Salting and drying are two of the earliest methods of treating foods to help preserve freshness and improve flavor. With new food technologies used today, there are a number of benefits offered in improving the food supply. We want convenience, and yet we want fresh. And the food industry has had to figure out new food technologies to provide fresh foods that are safe to eat. Products must stay fresh longer not only on the grocery shelf, but also in consumers' homes.
The food industry has responded with such new food technologies as irradiation, steam pasteurization, active packaging, chemical washes and more. Today's technology push is not completely new to the food industry. Past innovations have included canned meats and vegetables; frozen fruits and vegetables; and heat pasteurized milk.
Snack foods, breakfast cereals, confectionery and even some pet foods have been produced from a method of food processing known as extrusion. It basically involves compressing food into a semi-solid mass, and then forcing it through a small aperture to increase the variety of texture, shape, and color obtainable from a basic food ingredient. The technique has given rise to products with hitherto unknown shapes and textures. Extrusion can form and sometimes even cook raw ingredients into finished products.
One of the potential benefits of using extrusion food technologies in food production is to help preserve food products. Extrusion can be used to control the water activity of ingredients, which determines microbial growth. It is therefore useful in producing, shelf-stable foods and increasingly important in producing a variety of things like some snack foods, certain breakfast cereals and types of confectionery. Extrusion processing has been used in the preparation of camping and military field rations, foods for special dietary needs and for feeding during disaster and famine recovery. The use of extrusion to produce new and innovative food products holds much promise for future food production.
There are many companies out there providing customers with solutions addressing food safety and food processing through technology. Some food organizations are dedicated to using their scientific food processing technologies to substantially increase the quality and value of commercially-packaged seafood, poultry and meat, and to make those products safer for human consumption through elimination of disease causing pathogens.
These companies have a significant input in developing and marketing health-promoting ingredients that support both the functional food and dietary supplement industries.