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developing heating instructions From August 2011 newsletter

Developing heating instructions

Having carried out thousands of tests, we know that providing good heating or cooking instructions is as important to the quality and safety of a product as is the effort spent creating the product. Many potentially good products are spoilt by inadequately developed instructions - whether for microwave or conventional heating. Greg Hooper explains how we can help you avoid the pitfalls:

"Instructions should be developed to ensure that all areas attain a safe heat process and prevent a reduction in the organoleptic quality caused by overheating of edges or certain components. The trials performed and instrumentation used depend on the nature of the product under investigation and the heating method.

The use of calibrated or performance assessed appliances is crucial. For example, two correctly rated microwave ovens can heat a particular food at different rates and give rise to different hot and cold spot temperatures and locations. This is why it is so important to use a wide range of microwave ovens for developing instructions.

The data generated from the instruction development trials can be used to determine the exact lethality of the heating process. Monitoring the temperature of the food during heating can also indicate if and where problems may occur with overheating. Steps can then be taken in the instruction design to reduce these effects."

Packaging considerations

The selection of the appropriate package shape and material is particularly important in the safety of microwave heated products. Microwave heated food temperatures can increase until a particular food component (e.g. water, fats, sugars) either boils or starts to smoulder.This can lead to problems with packages melting and possibly igniting, and the migration of plastic components into the food.

Ultimately, whether the product is designed for microwave or conventional heating by the consumer, investing the effort into getting the heating instructions correct is an essential part of delivering the quality of product you want the consumer to experience.

Contact: Greg Hooper
+44(0)1386 842039