Meat in box may not be far away

August 18, 1996|By Philip Lempert | Philip Lempert,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Something about it seems totally illogical -- how can you have a perishable product with no preservatives sit on a supermarket shelf, without refrigeration, for months at a time?

Using aseptic packaging technology, manufacturers are giving consumers just that -- with foods ranging from milk and wine to liquid eggs and, maybe most familiar to shoppers, those ubiquitous juice boxes.

However, says Marshall Cohen, council president, the United TTC States is behind many other countries. Elsewhere, aseptic packaging is used for a much wider range of products, including yogurt, vegetable purees, gravies, sauces, even main-meal dishes.

How does it work? The liquid food or beverage is sterilized outside the package using ultra-high temperatures that rapidly heat, then cool the product. This is done in anywhere from 3 to 15 seconds, compared with traditional canning, where products are heated for 20 to 50 minutes. That way, say proponents, manufacturing and filling require less energy. This also increases nutrition retention and flavor.

One of the barriers to greater use, particularly with nonliquid foods such as meats, is the strict regulations in the United States regarding food safety, says Dilip Chandarana, a scientist with the National Food Processors Association in Washington, D.C.

"You have to demonstrate beyond doubt that a product is cooked throughout," he says.

However, Chandarana adds, new technology such as magnetic resonance imagery should be able to accomplish this. He predicts that within the next year, Americans will see more aseptically packaged products.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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