Processes to Preserve Spice and Herb Quality and Sensory Integrity During Pathogen Inactivation
Duncan, Susan E.
Ponder, Monica A.
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Selected processing methods, demonstrated to be effective at reducing Salmonella, were assessed to determine if spice and herb quality was affected. Black peppercorn, cumin seed, oregano, and onion powder were irradiated to a target dose of 8 kGy. Two additional processes were examined for whole black peppercorns and cumin seeds: ethylene oxide (EtO) fumigation and vacuum assisted-steam (82.22 °C, 7.5 psia). Treated and untreated spices/herbs were compared (visual, odor) using sensory similarity testing protocols (α = 0.20; β = 0.05; proportion of discriminators: 20%) to determine if processing altered sensory quality. Analytical assessment of quality (color, water activity, and volatile chemistry) was completed. Irradiation did not alter visual or odor sensory quality of black peppercorn, cumin seed, or oregano but created differences in onion powder, which was lighter (higher L∗) and more red (higher a∗) in color, and resulted in nearly complete loss of measured volatile compounds. EtO processing did not create detectable odor or appearance differences in black peppercorn; however visual and odor sensory quality differences, supported by changes in color (higher b∗; lower L∗) and increased concentrations of most volatiles, were detected for cumin seeds. Steam processing of black peppercorn resulted in perceptible odor differences, supported by increased concentration of monoterpene volatiles and loss of all sesquiterpenes; only visual differences were noted for cumin seed. An important step in process validation is the verification that no effect is detectable from a sensory perspective.