Monday, July 1, 2013

Moisture and Ash Testing in Food Processing

Moisture content has been established as an important indicator of shelf life for foods.  Moisture can determine the aesthetics of food, giving estimates to product shelf life regardless of sample properties in a wet or dry state. Ash content is also essential to a food’s nutrition and longevity. With Arizona Instrument LLC (AZI) Computrac® Moisture/Solids/Ash Analyzers, testing moisture and ash content is an easy pain-free process and can speed up production time and improve food quality control.

Moisture content is one of the most important characteristics in consumer sensory perception of food. Change in moisture content will dramatically affect flavor and texture as well as physical and chemical properties, as water gives chemicals a helpful medium to catalyze chemical reactions (water activity). The presence of free moisture is directly related to water activity; the higher the water activity, the more susceptible the food will be to interactions with microbes and its environment. Computrac® series of moisture analyzers are the fastest, most accurate tools for determining free moisture content.

Determining changes in moisture over time is essential in choosing the best packaging materials to maintain food longevity. The amount and type of packaging, the volume of food stored and the environment all can change the water content over time. Knowing and plotting water content is a useful way of locating the right packaging for each environment which improves shelf life.

The analysis of ash content in foods is simply the burning away of organic content, leaving inorganic minerals. This helps determine the amount and type of minerals in food; important because the amount of minerals can determine physiochemical properties of foods, as well as retard the growth of microorganisms.  Therefore, mineral content is a vital component in a food’s nutrition, quality, and, like water, microbial viability.  Arizona Instrument has instruments that reach 600°C, capable of ashing food samples without destroying the minerals within it, and is an integral part of the food manufacturing process.

Foods have high and low moisture content limits beyond which the product becomes objectionable from either a sensory or safety perspective. In dry brittle foods with low moisture content, such as dry cereal and dehydrated foods, upper moisture content limit is important; the food can absorb water and become moist, undesirable and prone to microbe contamination. In wet foods, such as muffins and sauces, the lower moisture content limit is monitored to make sure the food doesn’t become stale or distasteful. Finding and testing for these limits is essential to produce accurate manufacturer specifications for moisture. Guaranteeing food falls within these limits ensures the production of a quality food product that will not expire prematurely. Each food also has its own longevity and packaging concerns as well as mineral content considerations.

From cookies and mints, to flour and animal treats, we have tested all types of food for our customers. Using Computrac® analyzers to test for moisture, solids and ash content in place of comparable AOAC standards or vacuum oven test, manufacturers can significantly reduce test times without sacrificing accuracy; which again, speeds up production time and improves food quality control.

Manuel Oropeza, ChemistArizona Instrument LLC
(800) 528-7411 •

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