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New processing technology to help retain food flavour

A collaborative agreement between CSIRO and two German organisations is providing Australian food companies with access to a new processing technology which uses low-energy electron beams to decontaminate foods.

The agreement – with the internationally respected Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technology and service company, EVONTA-Service GmbH – aims to further scientific research into ‘low-energy electron beam processing.’

The new processing technology uses electrons to decontaminate the surfaces of foods such as powders and fresh produce.

CSIRO scientist Dr Kai Knoerzer said the technology would help retain the flavour, odour and nutrients of foods – properties often damaged by traditional decontamination methods such as heat treatment and chemical applications.

Mr Knoerzer said CSIRO would be leading the development of the application of low-energy electron beam processing in the Australian food industry.

"Through CSIRO, industry can access this technology, which presents some very exciting opportunities. The collaboration is an important one for scientific research in Australia and we look forward to commercial outcomes for more food companies."

The first food producer to have benefited from the collaboration is Stahmann Farms, Australia’s largest grower, processor and exporter of pecan nuts and a major processor of macadamias.

Stahmann Farms’ product manager Paul Deeth said the company approached CSIRO for help to meet strict new food safety guidelines in Europe, the US and Asia.

"We had worked with CSIRO before and we felt they were the only people who could help us to get our product to market safer and fresher by utilising their expertise in innovative processing," said Mr Deeth.

The Fraunhofer Institute is part of the Fraunhofer Association, which has research centres across Germany and offices in Europe, the US, Asia and the Middle East.

Fraunhofer is responsible for inventions such as a fat-free sausages and MP3 technology.

EVONTA-Service GmbH owns electron beam facilities and works extensively in the conventional and organic seed dressing industry in Germany and other parts of Europe.

The Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation assisted Stahmann Farms and CSIRO with a grant from its Smart Futures Fund to conduct the research.

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