Thermal, High Pressure, and Electric Field Processing Effects on Plant Cell Membrane Integrity and Relevance to Fruit and Vegetable Quality
Advanced food processing methods that accomplish inactivation of microorganisms but minimize adverse thermal exposure are of great interest to the food industry. High pressure (HP) and pulsed electric field (PEF) processing are commercially applied to produce high quality fruit and vegetable products in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Both microbial and plant cell membranes are significantly altered following exposure to heat, HP, or PEF. Our research group sought to quantify the degree of damage to plant cell membranes that occurs as a result of exposure to heat, HP, or PEF, using the same analytical methods. In order to evaluate whether new advanced processing methods are superior to traditional thermal processing methods, it is necessary to compare them. In this review, we describe the existing state of knowledge related to effects of heat, HP, and PEF on both microbial and plant cells. The importance and relevance of compartmentalization in plant cells as it relates to fruit and vegetable quality is described and various methods for quantification of plant cell membrane integrity are discussed. These include electrolyte leakage, cell viability, and proton nuclear magnetic resonance (H-NMR).