Consumer demand for new foods and concerns about food safety risks have led to demands for minimally processed foods without synthetic chemical preservatives. To address the demand, manufacturersare exploring new preservation methods, such as ohmic heating, high-pressure pulsed electric field, bright light, and aseptic processing.
The new aseptic processing system locks out air, helping to seal in nutrients and flavor. The machine allows contents to remain un-refrigerated for up to six months or more without the use ofpreservatives, the NFL said. The filler fills to an accuracy of less than one half gram and is approved for use with high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles.
"For those reasons alone, it has been called the packaging of the future," the NFL stated. "It is this sterile processing and packaging environment that allows the productsto be shelf stable without the use of preservatives."
The NFL, a firm specialising in aseptic consulting, was part of the design of the system for HP Hood, one of the largest branded dairy producers inthe US. The NFL was responsible for gaining regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA is responsible for overseeing all low-acid aseptic machines in the US. While other aseptic dairy processing and packaging machines exist in the US, the one approved for use at Hood'sWinchester Plant was manufactured by Japan's Shibuya Kogyo.
The NFL says the approval marks the first time the FDA has approved a high speed rotary low-acid aseptic dairy application in the country. Testing began in November 2004 and the application was submitted to the FDA in early April 2005. The FDA accepted the filing without comment in June, allowing Hood to begin production.
In addition to its dairy operations Hood has national franchise rights to process and sell extended- shelf-life products including Lactaid, Nesquik, Coffee-mate, Stonyfield Farm Organic Milk, Arizona Fresh Iced Tea and Southern Comfort Eggnog.