Near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy systems are already used routinely in the pharmaceutical industry, but Campden BRI has now developed a new approach to utilise the technology to analyse moisture, carbohydrate, protein and fat structures in food.
Campden BRI’s cereals and milling science manager Dr. Martin Whitworth told BakeryandSnacks.com: “It allows us to take an image of the food and to map the distribution of moisture, for example, throughout a product.”
Tackling formulation issues
When it comes to uses for food manufacturers, Whitworth emphasised that it is not available for use as a contract test.
“With the imaging system, it is about having a particular problem with the product and working with them to see what we can do… It is an experimental technique, a service for product developers such as manufacturers of low fat products who may want to get a better understanding of the product that they are working on,” he said.
Whereas sample analysis to assess bulk properties – used for flour, for example – is common in the food industry, measuring changes in component food ingredients and their interaction with one another is more challenging.
Detailed component analysis
The NIR system has already been trialled at Campden BRI for measuring variation in moisture levels in baguettes during storage at different humidity levels, and for analysing fat uptake in fried doughnuts. This involves not only determining the fat content after frying, but the distribution of fat within the product.
Likewise, the baguette analysis was designed to determine how moisture levels change throughout the whole loaf’s crumb structure as the bread stales in different humidity conditions.
By collating spectral data for each pixel of an image, it is possible to create an image of food components on a minute level, and to quantify the distribution of those elements.
Whitworth explained that the NIR system is sensitive to long-wave light in the 700 to 2500 nanometre range, as opposed to visible wavelengths of light.
“A lot of the information in that part of the spectrum is about composition rather than light,” he said.
Campden BRI, formerly known as the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association, is the biggest membership-based food and drink research centre in the world. It has over 1690 members from across the food industry based in 60 countries.