“Just Say No” to Moldy Cheese with Spectral Analysis: Utilizing Food Science Technology

In a fast-paced world, convenience is everything, especially when it comes to food products. With more options than ever before, it’s no wonder that more Americans are choosing shredded cheese over large, solid chunks. With the market for shredded cheeses booming, manufacturers are looking for new ways to extended the shelf-life of these products and reduce waste, and they are turning to spectral analysis for the answer.

shredded cheese and grater spectral analysis
More Americans are turning to pre-packaged shredded cheeses for their quick prep and convenience.
Image Source: Flickr user Didriks

The moldy cheese epidemic

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “The most difficult problem that shredded cheese manufacturers face is product return as a result of mold growth. Mold spoilage is commonly attributed to the increased surface area of the cheese shreds and the extra handling and exposure that the shreds experience in the cut and packing facility.” These facts have led to a search for new food science technology solutions to improve packaging and processing in order to preserve the freshness of these products for longer periods of time. Spectral analysis provided data about packaging and processing techniques that are being used revolutionize the cheese industry, lower costs, and improve profits.

moldy cheese spectral analysis
Moldy cheese is the number one reason for product rejection and leads to wasted product and lower profits.
Image Source: Flickr user Norris Wong

Natamycin is the most commonly used anti-molding agent in pre-packaged shredded cheeses. However, UV light greatly influences the rate at which the effects of this additive decrease. Therefore, cheese manufacturers continue to look for ways to increase the UV-blocking ability of packaging to help maintain the stability of natamycin and evenly distribute this anti-fungal agent to further delay the molding process.

Monitoring the stability of natamycin

Natamycin is applied to cheese products as either a dry powder or an aqueous solution. Spectral analysis provides a rapid and effective method of monitoring the concentration of natamycin on cheese products and delivers continuous evaluation of these levels as the product undergoes changes and mold spores present themselves.

Spectral analysis utilizes VIS (visible spectrum) technology to evaluate the natamycin samples in water as well as in packaging materials. Using a spectrophotometer to measure the wavelengths in sample materials can provide useful data. This information can help define the amount of UV-absorbing polymers within packaging material and determine the best formulation increasing the stability of natamycin. Spectral analysis also provides useful information by monitoring the concentration of natamycin found on cheese products and ensuring that even coverage is achieved.

shredded cheese spectral analysis
Spectrophotometry is a rapid and effective method for evaluating the stability of natamycin on both shredded and sliced cheese products.
Image Source: Flickr user cookbookman17

Meeting regulatory standards

Natamycin is a relatively safe food additive and is useful in preventing mycotoxins from mold contamination in cheese and other food and pharmaceutical products. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set specific limitations on “the amount of natamycin on cheese that may remain in the finished product[s], regardless of the method of application.” Spectral analysis offers an affordable and efficient method for quantifying natamycin amounts on various cheese products. This technology also has many other applications in dairy product analysis and safety in the food industry.

Options in spectral technology

Spectrophotometers are an important analytic tool in the food industry. New food science technology has provided a way to utilize spectral analysis for mold prevention and to increase the shelf-life of shredded cheese products. As this market continues to grow and consumers demand both convenience and longer shelf life among their product choices, it is essential to remain competitive and produce quality products. Spectral analysis can help manufacturers effectively monitor production and packaging material to ensure the best results for increased profits. For more information on options in spectral analysis in the dairy and food industries, please contact HunterLab today.

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