Image Credit: Monash University

Image Credit: Monash University

Monash University extends shelf life of dairy exports through technology

Researchers at Monash University have developed a suite of drying technology platforms that could help extend the shelf life of Australia’s powdered dairy exports, including infant formula, while meeting strict safety and quality benchmarks.

According to the report made by the University, world-first Smart Drying technology was developed by Professor Cordelia Selomulya and her team from the Department of Chemical Engineering, together with international collaborators.

The technology will help optimise the current industry-standard spray drying conditions and their effect on the final powdered dairy products.

Spray drying is a method of producing dry powder from a liquid or slurry through rapid drying with hot gas.

Prolonged storage and continued exposure to temperature and moisture during transportation can lead to the browning or caking and spoilage of dairy powders. This can impact the solubility of dairy powders which, in the case of infant formula, can cause choking.

The use of x-ray diffraction and infra-red technology as part of the study, as explained by Professor Selomuly, will allow monitoring of fundamental changes in powder properties during storage.

At the same time, it can assist in understanding the ideal conditions that produce cost-effective, export quality dairy powder.

She added that milk powder production is the most energy-intensive dairy manufacturing process, with Australian producers under increasing pressure to improve efficiencies and to reduce the cost of bulk powder production.

Since most infant formulas are exported overseas, it is important that the quality is maintained during the transport and storage period. It could take several weeks or months before the product is actually used by a customer.

A more targeted approach to spray drying can help manufacturers in producing high quality powders. Not only that, but there can also be tremendous gains in energy saving while reducing environmental costs, potentially through a combination of lower temperature spray drying and more efficient evaporation processes.

Around 40% of fresh milk in Australia is spray dried to create products such as milk powders, whey powders and milk protein concentrates which collectively make up half of the A$ 2 billion dairy export industry of Australia.

The research being undertaken by the University will help define the right process conditions to produce the powder and also help extend its shelf life especially since there is a growing demand for dairy products in Southeast Asia.

Professor Selomulya concluded that the Australian dairy industry has the reputation of producing high quality products and Australia has one of the highest food safety standards in the world.

The key is to be able to increase efficiency in manufacturing by decreasing the chances of producing dairy powders with poor quality shelf life.

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