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USA: Praxair Technology Enables Processed Juice to Taste Like Fresh Squeezed

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A technology that significantly extends the shelf-life of juices while maintaining their just-squeezed flavor is in the preparatory stages of in-plant testing by Praxair, Inc. (NYSE: PX). The process, expected to achieve food safety results similar to heat pasteurization, is likely to have a noticeable impact on the $15 billion juice market by allowing the taste of fresh-squeezed juice to be widely available.

Praxair's new technology treats juice with carbon dioxide (CO2), a natural anti-microbial. Working together with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Praxair developed the equipment and the continuous process that utilizes the patented CO2 technology perfected by UF researchers. The resulting process produces a final product that meets current U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) standards for juice food safety programs, yet allows the juice to retain its fresh-squeezed flavor. Although currently being applied to fruit and vegetable juices, the technology ultimately may be applicable to a wide range of liquid food products.

A trained sensory panel at an independent laboratory recently tested orange juice treated with this technology, and in a number of sensory attributes evaluated, no differences could be detected between the juice treated with pressurized CO2 and fresh squeezed orange juice.

"Delivering a safe product to the consumer is always paramount to processors," says David Farmer, director, food and beverage marketing for Praxair. "But a safe product that also better-tasting is the ultimate win-win. It's another way for Praxair to bring value to the food and beverage processing industries that also positively affects the ultimate consumer."

Juice is commonly preserved through the use of heat pasteurization. In this process, heating the juice to a high temperature kills microorganisms but also alters the natural taste of the juice giving it a slightly cooked flavor. An alternative technology that is available is high pressure processing (HPP), which involves the use of very high pressure to kill microorganisms. Although HPP is as effective as pasteurization for killing bacteria and maintains the original flavor, it carries a much higher capital cost for the processor and can result in higher prices to the consumer.

Praxair is the largest industrial gases company in North and South America and one of the largest worldwide, with 1999 sales of $4.6 billion. The company is the world's leading supplier of industrial gases and related technologies to the food and beverage processing industries, and produces and distributes process gases, and cryogenic chilling and freezing equipment to a wide variety of industries. For more information, visit Praxair on the Internet at www.praxair.com.

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