Hungry For Automation

Automating food processes can reap many benefits. With highly competitive retailers constantly trying to reduce prices, to soaring raw material costs and rising utility charges in a labour-intensive industry, food processing companies should be looking at ways to automate their processes.

For these companies, reducing the quality of their product to save costs is not an option. So, just like other manufacturers in the processing sector, those in the food industry are finding ways to automate their production to improve efficacy. There has also been a shift from wanting canned foods (which is now considered unhealthy) to shelf-stable products and this has caused companies to look for new ways to manufacture food. All while maintaining quality, speed, and safety. Large companies have already adopted automation in their factories but small and medium enterprises are also feeling the pressure to do the same as demand for their products spike.

As a company grows and the need for production capacity increases, there will be a shift away from batch production processes towards a continuous flow of prepared ingredients. To keep their customers coming back for more, it is essential to maintain the same taste and texture as the batch production method for the same product. A new continuous flow together with a redesign of the process area can result in reducing labour costs but the majority of the investment is usually aimed at gaining further capacity from similar proven technology. When it comes to producing in high volumes, with long life or a single product, hard or fixed automation solutions are more appropriate.

However, the automation of food products must still meet the strict hygiene standards required in handling foods. What we want is a germ-free environment to ensure the safety of foods manufactured or packaged. Machine sanitation requires parts that are easily dismantled and accessible for washing and cleaning. Reassembly must also be quick and simple as the cleaning process might continue into the next shift or when the same machine must be used to create another product, such as those containing allergens like nuts.

Food manufacturers should note that correct and swift disassembly and reassembly of a machine’s components can prove difficult in a high staff turnover environment. Constantly having to train new staff will also eat into your profit margin and production time. When considering automation, the software chosen should be easy to learn, use, and master to make adoption as smooth as possible.

Thanks to wear and tear, existing equipment will need to be upgraded or new ones need to be purchased in order to meet consumer demands. This can also lead to staff needing to be retrained every time new equipment is brought in. Machines should also be made using high-grade stainless steel and free from microbiological traps or water stagnation. Sub-components such as motors and gearboxes which often have cooling fins or strengthening ribs on them are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. If there are nooks and crannies where germs can breed or water gather, they should be easily accessible to be cleaned.

Even today, many food manufacturers tend to overlook these criteria and only discover these problems once the machines have been in use for some time. Not only should hygiene be given importance when choosing your machines but also their maintenance. Food-grade oils and greases for gearboxes and lubrication systems must be selected to ensure your machines are operating efficiently.

As in any industry, getting back into production is of utmost importance and looking to the future, food manufacturing procedures will likely remain much the same. However, the bias against automation has now largely disappeared and automation is now a necessity in the food industry to address the required levels of quality control, production speed, labor shortages and overall profitability.

To learn about the different ways you can automate your manufacturing processes, visit the Malaysian International Food & Beverage (MIFB) 2019 Trade Fair from 26-28 June 2019.

Running A Commercial Kitchen

With the rising popularity of reality TV shows featuring budding restaurateurs opening restaurants, more and more people are considering entering the food and beverage business. The kitchen is the heart and soul of a restaurant. It’s the place where food gets prepped, cooked, plated or dished out before being served to hungry customers. No matter where they are located, a commercial kitchen must produce consistent quality food products, quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. Two key elements to ensuring your kitchen run smoothly are proper equipment (but it doesn’t need to be fancy) and dedicated manpower. But some other details also need to be taken care of.

Plan the space

A commercial kitchen should consist of a few stations: prep, saute, cooking, plating, and cleaning. As a general rule, the type of food you’re selling is going to be a factor in the types of stations you have. For example, if your restaurant is a BBQ joint, you’re going to need a large grilling station. If you’re selling pizza, then a pizza oven will become a station on its own. Logically, the size of your kitchen will determine the number of stations you can fit into it. Make sure your design and layout comply with all health and safety and building code requirements for commercial kitchens.

Equipping your kitchen

Once you have figured out your layout, it is time to think about what equipment you want in your kitchen. Most of your equipment will have to be a commercial standard to ensure efficiency, quality, and hygiene. If you are investing in dishwashing equipment, you want to make sure it reaches temperatures hot enough to sanitise, or there must be multiple sink compartments to wash and dry by hand. All this equipment won’t come cheap. If you are on a tight budget, consider getting used equipment or leasing the bigger items such as ice makers and large ovens. When it comes time to replace your equipment, look around commercial kitchen equipment wholesalers to score yourself the best prices. Don’t forget to regularly review your food stores and dispose out-of-date produce to avoid food spoilage or contamination.

Hire the right people

It does not matter if you have a staff of 3 or a staff of 100, your team’s organisational skills and flair for cooking are what will determine the success of your business.bMost positions in a restaurant are entry-level such as dishwashers or prep cooks but others, like the head chef, would require a few years of experience under their toque (chef’s hat). Make it a point to meet with your team regularly to make sure expectations are clear and also to discuss the ways things can be improved, not only in terms of management but also product ideas. Hygiene is of utmost importance and you should create a daily cleaning list that your staff adheres to strictly. That is unless of course, you want your place to go viral on social media because of a disgusting kitchen. Schedule in monthly thorough cleanups as well Don’t forget to treat everyone, whether it is your head chef, waiters or dishwashers equally, fairly and firmly.

Keep up with culinary trends

Now, this is a tricky one. To begin with, you do not want to be riding the bandwagon everytime as it will require constantly turning your menu topsy-turvy and retraining your staff. However, you should keep up with trends that affect your chosen type of cuisine. Attend as many trade shows as you can to get new ideas and compare your products to what is available out there. Don’t leave your team out of this though. Keep communication channels open and discuss your ideas with them. Heck, they may even have ideas of their own to bring in more profit. Whatever it is, do not lose your identity and branding and always maintain your business’ DNA.

If you want to see what your competition is up to or just see how you can up your kitchen game, come down to the Malaysian International Food & Beverage (MIFB) 2019 Trade Fair from 26-28 June 2019.

Honey, Your Body Needs It

Honey is a thick, sweet liquid and tastes like a gift from the gods, and is deemed one of nature’s finest products. For over 5,000 years, it has been used to heal burns, wounds and other skin ailments due to its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. But that is not all it is good for.

Sharon Chen Chew Yean from Uninoto Marketing says honey is incredible for our skin because of its antibacterial properties and a hefty serving of skin-saving antioxidants. “Honey is naturally antibacterial, so it’s great for acne treatment and prevention.” She adds that it can also stop your skin from showing signs of aging and can boost your complexion as it is extremely moisturizing and soothing, so it helps create a glow. “Honey is clarifying because it opens up pores making them easy to unclog,” she explains further.

Honey is graded based on its colour and clarity with the clear, golden amber variant fetching higher prices than its darker counterparts. It is made up of around 75 per cent sugars, of which roughly half is glucose and half is fructose (these proportions may vary depending on the source of the nectar). The remaining 20 to 25 per cent is water with a trace of protein, a trace of fat and a trace of fiber, which explains why honey has fewer ‘sugars’ or kilojoules/calories than sugar when you compare them weight for weight.

Based on some research-based reviews, honey has been proven to help to decrease the severity and duration of diarrhea. The research shows that it increases potassium and water uptake which is incredibly important when dealing with diarrhea. Sharon says both local and imported honey share the same nutritional content. But she believes that it is better to buy local honey. Not only is it slightly cheaper and more environmentally friendly (it leaves a smaller carbon footprint due to fewer logistics involved), it is also important to support the local economy.

Although there are no hard and fast rules as to how to consume honey, Sharon says timing your consumption can have added benefits. Drinking some honey about 1 ½ hour before eating can help improve indigestion and suppress gastric acid. Having some about 2 hours after eating can also aid digestion.

Honey can reduce the upward flow of stomach acid and undigested food by lining the esophagus and stomach. This sweet liquid has also been proven to help with coughs and throat irritations with parents preferring to use it as a treatment for their children since it is a natural healer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised and recommends honey as a natural cough remedy. The same goes for the American Academy of Pediatrics which also recognizes honey as a cough treatment.

Sharon also says that honey can give you an extra boost of energy when you have to stay up late. What if you got a bout of insomnia? “It helps us improve the quality of sleep and makes us feel fresh and energetic the next day.” “An extra tip: mixing honey with clean water and washing your face with it is very good for moisturising the skin. It helps the skin stay hydrated.”

To learn and search more healthy & natural products, visit the Malaysian International Food & Beverage (MIFB) 2019 Trade Fair from 26-28 June 2019.

Detecting Pathogens In Seafood & Fishery

The seafood business is continuously growing, especially the export market. The United States (US) is the third largest seafood consumer in the world after China and Japan. Popular seafood products consumed there were shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, pollock, tilapia, and catfish, among others. With the steady increase in both consumption and seafood importation over the past few decades, growing concerns over seafood safety have been raised.

In fact, the US Center for Science in the Public Interest has said that finfish and shellfish cause the most foodborne illness outbreaks. Because seafood is often consumed raw, like sushi, or prepared in ways that do not adequately kill microorganisms, detecting potential food safety hazards is imperative.

Mass food poisoning outbreaks have always sent companies scrambling to identify the cause of the problem. Often, the source may be a raw ingredient produced in an unexpected place but identifying the cause is difficult.

The majority of seafood-associated outbreaks were due to intoxication, which occurs when preformed toxins are consumed by patients, rather than infections. These toxins are produced by certain types of bacteria as they grow and multiply in the food. Bacterial agents of major concern in seafood include Vibrio, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, Clostridium botulinum.

The FDA says Salmonella was the most common contaminant of imported seafood. Marine Vibrio species, on the other hand, are known to attach themselves to the shells of shellfish and are responsible for cholera.

Whether the seafood are caught from the wild or farmed, detecting pathogens on them is needed to save the fish and protect the others from infection. Diseases caused by bacteria, protozoa can cause serious losses in the aquaculture industry.

Food companies carry out microorganism detection tests regularly, if not daily, for microorganisms in raw materials, manufacturing processes, and final products, in order to prevent harm to consumers. Rapid detection of pathogens is not only important in infected fish but also in their environment such as the water they live in. It serves as an early warning system that can save your entire livestock, not to mention your business.

Many techniques have been developed over the years, each requiring its own protocol, equipment, and expertise. There are a few methods used such as nucleic acid-based, antigen-antibody based, biosensor-based and phage-based tests. However, methods involving a culturing step is generally time-consuming and labor intensive, and are generally not preferred.

Assays for Flavobacterium or Mycobacterium species may require several days for growth with specialized media and growth conditions. For some cases, antibody-based methods are sufficient to achieve the necessary sensitivity and specificity while for others, more sensitive DNA-based methods are required. One such example of a DNA-based method is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

A downside of PCR tests is that it needs to be carried out with blood, water, sediment and tissue samples but it is more sensitive. The method has been gaining popularity also due to the growing availability of sequence data in databases such as GenBank and microbial full genome sequences. Although these methods are useful for the detection of a single organism, there is a need to test for multiple pathogens with a single assay.

These methods have recently been developed for the simultaneous detection of multiple pathogens, encompassing multiplex PCR, DNA assays, and PCR assays. It should be noted that pathogens may be present at low levels during harvesting, and others may be introduced during handling and processing or by unsanitary practices. Hence, it is important to keep seafood cold at all times to limit the potential for pathogens to grow in the product.

To learn more about how you can protect your aquaculture business, visit the Malaysian International Food & Beverage (MIFB) 2019 Trade Fair from 26-28 June 2019.

Mimicking Meat

Whether you are practicing vegetarianism, veganism or Meatless Mondays, enjoying a meat-free meal can help reduce your carbon footprint on this planet.

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Killing seafood pathogens

Like it or hate it, raw seafood is enjoyed around the world in a multitude of cuisines. It commonly makes an appearance in dishes such as sushi and tartare, consumed as clams or oysters on the half shell, or used in marinated dishes like ceviche. These dishes, considered ready-to-eat, also run the risk of causing food poisoning if not stored properly.

Seafood can easily be contaminated with bacterial pathogens, such as Vibrio and Salmonella. Vibrio occurs naturally in marine environments while Salmonella can contaminate during the production or processing phases. Studies have shown that the level of human pathogenic bacteria in fish is generally quite low but concentrations are much higher in shellfish.

Other seafood products such as lightly smoked fish (e.g. salmon lox) which are only partially cooked can also harbour dangerous pathogens. Climatic conditions can also affect the contamination risks of seafood. To play it safe, raw seafood should not be exposed to temperatures above 40°F for an extended period. This is to prevent the growth of pathogens to dangerous levels that can cause illnesses, and damage your business.

So how do you keep these microorganisms from spoiling your product and causing losses to your business?

Basic hygiene

You should avoid cross-contamination during storage and preparation by separating raw and cooked seafood. Also, make it a point to wash your utensils before reusing it on other food. Speaking of washing, don’t forget to wash your hands before and after handling any raw or cooked food.

Seafood is not meant to only be consumed raw but when cooking it, ensure that the internal temperature reaches at least 145°F for 15 seconds.


One way and certainly the most popular is freezing. Freezing does not kill bacteria per se. However, ice crystals can form from the water inside seafood. These ice crystals can act as daggers which slice through the bacterial cells and kill them. Seafood should be kept refrigerated below 40°F, ideally. In the case of partially cooked or ready-to-eat products, it’s best to keep it as cold as possible at all times, from harvesting to transportation, processing, and storage. These raw foods should also be served in ways that keep them cold or that really limit their time exposed to room temperature.

Deep-freezing can kill pathogens if it is done long enough, according to guidelines for the food industry from the Food and Drug Administration. Freezing can be the answer for parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, and flukes. However, it’s efficacy varies and it has been reported that deep-freezing is most effective for tapeworms. Although effective for killing tapeworms, deep-freezing has proven to be less effective for roundworms and flukes.


The global canned seafood market size was estimated at USD 21.5 billion in 2016. Canning is a sterilization process that kills pathogens already present on the food and prevents further contamination by microorganisms. The canning process is essentially sealing cooked food in an airtight container, normally a tin can, and heating it to high temperatures (240°F to 270°F). The shelf life is typically between one to five years.

This method has an advantage over freezing as the food can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time. Water or steam is used over the cans in the heating step before it moves into the holding phase, which is when the ambient temperature is maintained for a set amount of time to sterilize the contents. Everything is then cooled down to allow safe handling.

Whether canning at home or at an industrial level, use top quality fresh seafood and can it as soon as you get your hands on it. The longer you wait, the more the quality will deteriorate. It is essential that proper canning techniques and equipment are used to avoid food-borne illnesses.

These are just a few physical methods that can be used to kill harmful pathogens on your seafood. To learn more or collaborate with seafood industry experts, come down to the Malaysian International Food & Beverage (MIFB) 2019 Trade Fair from 26-28 June 2019.