Performance of Drying Technologies to Ensure Microbial Safety of Dried Fruits and Vegetables

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Dried fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices are produced in and sourced from many countries worldwide, but they have been increasingly reported to be involved in outbreaks and alerts due to the presence of foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella. These dried products are mainly produced by solar drying and conventional air drying, but a wide range of drying technologies are available. From a technological point of view the general trend is to optimize and standardize the drying process to ensure high-quality products to be offered. Drying technologies are mainly evaluated for their performance to reduce water activity at low energy cost while maintaining good sensorial quality of the dried product. However, as low water activity foods are increasingly recognized to support microbial survival and dried products are often consumed as they are, or are used as ingredients in many ready-to-eat foods, there is increasing attention to the microbiological quality and safety aspects of these products. This review presents traditional and emerging technologies to dry fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices and discusses their potential to inactivate bacteria and viruses throughout the drying process. Overall, the microbial inactivation effect of the presented technologies has not yet been thoroughly assessed, even for traditional methods like solar drying, conventional air drying, or freeze-drying. Emerging technologies such as dielectric (assisted) drying and low-pressure superheated steam drying have been shown to reduce microbial populations; however, the number of studies is still low. Very few studies have focused on viral inactivation during drying processes.
Sim´eon Bourdoux
Dan Li
Andreja Rajkovic
Frank Devlieghere
Mieke Uyttendaele
Institute of Food Technologists