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Aseptic filling solution for fruit purees

11 February 2018

Aseptic filling is a key process in modern food and ingredients manufacturing, including fruit purees and fillings, says Matt Hale

HRS recently installed an upgraded combined line to sterilise, cool and aseptically fill fruit purees for a food customer in the UK, and this demonstrates how different equipment comes together to form a line capable of safely and efficiently processing a range of viscous products containing particulates.

Because of the range of fruit purees produced, the ability to switch quickly and cleanly between different batches and products was a key consideration. The built-in CIP (cleaning in place) programme facilitates this and provides an efficient and hygienic process. This flexibility also enables the system to cope with seasonal changes in product and different orders in quick succession, and this was a big factor behind their solution choice. For example, processing strawberry puree is very different to apples, but the system can cope equally well with all the fruit types required, switching easily from one batch to another.

The right heat exchanger
In order to use this method, the product has to be from microorganisms which could cause spoilage and so most food and drink products which are packaged aseptically are cooked, pasteurised or sterilised immediately prior to packaging, or if this is not possible, they are kept in sterile conditions until they can be packaged. There are different methods of doing this, and the type of equipment (for example, the type of heat exchanger) specified will depend on the nature of the product being processed.

For example, tomato puree and thicker materials generally use a triple-tube heat exchanger. Materials which contain particles frequently use a double-tube design, while thinner and less viscous materials benefit from multi-tube heat exchanger technology.

In the solution provided by HRS for this particular client, fruit puree enters from the production lines via a balance tank before being pre-heated and de-aerated then passed to the thermal treatment section. Under normal operation, the product is heated to 94°C and then held at this temperature to ensure full pasteurisation or sterilisation as required. Heat for the process comes from water, heated via an HRS K series multi-tube heat exchanger, which is derived from steam used elsewhere in the factory.

Safety first
As a safety feature, the system constantly monitors the temperature of the product; any product which has not been fully pasteurised or sterilised is returned to the beginning of the process. Once fully heat-treated, the puree is cooled, first to around 30°C using ambient water and another K Series heat exchanger, then cooled further to between 5 and 10°C using chilled water. At the same time, the equipment itself, including the aseptic filling heads, is sterilised with hot water at 121°C. Sterility throughout the process is maintained with steam which is automatically temperature controlled.

At the end of each production cycle, the equipment and filling heads are automatically cleaned with CIP solution and the system is re-set ready for the next production batch, avoiding any cross contamination between different products, preserving product quality and maintaining food safety. The new line has increased productivity by removing the need to shut down and reconfigure the line between production runs of different products. It has also improved product quality through gentler handling and improved heat transfer.

Matt Hale is international sales and marketing director at HRS Heat Exchangers.

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