Food Engineering

Aseptic tap crosses the low-acid divide

January 2, 2008

Delivering purity and proving food is pure are two different issues, and the latter has proved to be an insurmountable barrier for valves used in aseptic bags-until now. Based on validation work by process authorities at the Institute of Environmental Health Laboratories (IEH) and its own microbiological testing, New York-based Steuben Foods Inc. is rolling out low-acid foods in aseptic pouches that don’t require refrigeration after opening.

Steuben officials unveiled the Whitney’s line of iced coffees and teas at November’s NACS Show for convenience-store operators, and they expect to begin shipping product in early 2008. “Multi-serve bag-in-box is new to us, and these aseptic products always have had an issue with the requirement to refrigerate,” notes Ken Schlossberg, president of Steuben, a leading aseptic copacker. “Validating sterility through a well-respected process authority made the difference” in the decision to launch the first low-acid products that don’t require refrigeration after the valve is open to the atmosphere.

Designing a testing protocol to validate sterility after the tap is opened may be Lake Forest Park, WA-based IEH’s greatest contribution to the debate. Both International Dispensing Corp. (IDC) and Scholle Corp. have offered single-fitment aseptic bags for at least four years, bolstering the business case over two-fitment bags with tests by multiple process authorities. Validating the technology’s efficacy to the satisfaction of the FDA was another matter, and processors who distributed single-fitment bags recommended storing open containers below 40