Well, no catch according to University of Otago researchers! New technology could make the popular fast-food staple – the French fry – healthier, less costly and its production better for the environment.
Recently arrived Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) processing equipment will be put to test for large-scale French fry production over the next three months.
This technology, which uses brief pulses of electricity (microseconds) to modify and disrupt the membranes of cells in plant or animal material or microorganisms, has a wide variety of applications across many food processing industries.
The electric field being pulsed through un-cut potatoes during processing alters their microstructure, which results in a more controlled release of sugar, more uniform colouration and reduced oil uptake. It also enhances processing as the softer texture makes the potatoes easier to cut, meaning there is less waste.
The industry pilot programme is part of a New Zealand Ministry for Business and Innovation funded Food Industry Enabling Technology (FIET) programme worth nearly NZ$ 16.8M, over six years. There are six institutions involved in the programme: Massey University (host), the University of Otago, the University of Auckland, Plant & Food Research, AgResearch and the Riddet Institute. The University of Otago leads the research.
“With the equipment now in New Zealand we are excited to begin the industrial trial with the hope of proving the techniques, and in time enabling New Zealand food industries to benefit from this new technology,” says University of Otago Professor Indrawati Oey, Head of Otago’s Department of Food Sciences and the PEF project leader.
“PEF also has potential to enhance the quality and value of many other NZ agricultural and horticultural products,” adds Professor Oey.
This 3-month industry trial is supported by Potatoes New Zealand.