THE DEPARTMENT of Science and Technology’s (DoST) Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) has created a new process for preserving fruit and vegetables that minimizes the degradation of the foods’ nutritional quality.

The FNRI said in a statement Thursday that its Nutrition and Food Research and Development Division developed a Low Heat and Low Humidity (LH2) Drying System which reduces volume losses during preservation.

It said produce subjected to the new process are shelf-stable for six months in the case of fruit and four months for vegetables.

“The LH2… uses desiccants to reduce drying air’s humidity that enables dehydration at lower temperature, resulting in retained sensory and nutritional properties,” FNRI said.

According to the institute, about 40% of the volume of produce is lost during post-harvest handling and processing. A more efficient method of preservation is expected to offset such losses. 

It said traditional high-temperature drying methods adversely affect the sensory and nutritional qualities of the food.

LH2 products have been evaluated by a food grading panel which returned a rating of 7, which corresponds to “moderate like.” Microbial analyses also showed that the products are fit for human consumption after falling within the acceptable range for microbial load.

It added that users of the LH2-process can tap into the growing demand for healthy food and adding value to produce.

“These dried products can be also included in relief packs distributed as part of emergency response during disasters, calamities, and also during pandemics,” the institute said.  

It said the fabrication of LH2 equipment intended for pilot-scale production is ongoing. Once completed, pilot production and feasibility studies will be conducted.

FNRI Senior Research Specialist Richard L. Alcaraz said by telephone that the pilot tests and feasibility study are expected to be completed within the year, with possible commercialization by 2022. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave