Food processing industry has witnessed great evolution in the last few years. Growing population and changing lifestyles have drastically influenced the patterns of food consumption. Convenience, quality, nutrition, quantity and availability have topped the list of consumers requirements. The food manufacturing and processing industries accommodated a wide range of foods to cater to the needs of the consumers. Likewise, the processes and operations have sophisticated as per the products manufactured and their markets reach.
Food processing operations include various procedures used to prepare and process food to extend their shelf life and enhance their organoleptic properties. The post-processing operations in food technology involve procedures such as coating or enrobing, packaging, filling and sealing of containers, labeling, material handling storage and distribution. Each of these procedures is briefly explained below:
Coating or enrobing:
This is done to improve the appearance, texture, flavour and quality of the food and increase its variety. The procedure involves coating food items such as fish, vegetables, meat, chocolate and other confectionery with batter or breadcrumbs. The coat acts as a barrier to gaseous exchange and also prevents mechanical damage.
This is the most important part of food processing operations. Packaging ensures the safe delivery of the product to the consumer at a minimum cost. The packaging material and systems are continuously developing over the past few years to make them user-friendly. The main functions of packaging are containment, protection, communication, machinability and convenience. Textiles, wood, metals, glass, flexible films, plastic, paper and cardboard are some of the most commonly used packaging materials.
Filling and sealing of containers:
Filling is done with multiple ingredients but should be by the fill-weight legislation. The containers are sealed to maintain the quality and shelf-life of the food. Incorrect filling and sealing would lead to food spoilage during subsequent storage.
Labelling serves as an interface between the manufacturer and consumer and hence considered as an integral part of the marketing strategy of the product. Labels are made from paper, plastic film, foil or laminated materials. The techniques used to print the information on the labels are called lithographic or rotogravure techniques
Material handling, storage and transport:
The final quality of the food is majorly dependent on the way the food products are handled, stored and transported to the market. Materials handling received less attention as compared to other operations until recent times. During the last decade, with technological advancements, the warehouse space, vehicle loads and handling systems have been optimized leading to more sophisticated handling of food materials. Storage of raw materials and finished food products should be done at optimum conditions. Appropriate logistics ensures efficient distribution of processed food in the market. Effective strategies for waste management and disposal are also a central part of the post-processing food operations.
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