While marinades get spicier for Latin and South American cuisines and barbecue grilling, new technologies are keeping them safe.

Fairly recent technologies are available for packaging safety into marinades, brines and seasonings.

“Packaging systems with modified atmospheres, high hydrostatic pressure, pre-converted vegetable powders for natural curing, fruit concentrates with high ascorbic acid content and buffered vinegar products that are good antimicrobials are all good examples,” says Joseph Sebranek, Ph.D., Morrison Endowed Chair, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

And a number of additional antimicrobial compounds continue to be developed, especially for those products with “natural” labels.

“I guess I would say that a continued focus on improving sanitation coupled with more development of new antimicrobial compounds that are acceptable for use with natural-labeled products would be an area where more new technology would be welcomed,” Sebranek says.


Prepping brines

Processors are also trying to reduce processing times, while improving product stability and quality, to keep temperatures low, minimize operator error and maximize yield.

Brine prep systems mix large quantities of dry ingredients, dissolve dry ingredients into the brine, cool the brine quickly and pump it to the injector’s brine holding tank.

Most brine mixers today use a venturi pump to add the dry ingredients to the brine, says Jeff Sindelar, Ph.D., professor and extension meat specialist, Meat Science & Muscle Biology Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.

“A fair amount of technology is involved with creating brine mixers to quickly dissolve ingredients so there is an even application,” says Sindelar.

Indeed, high shear mixers of brine mixtures can rapidly dissolve salt, phosphates and sugars, among other ingredients, and can disperse starches and colloids so the water binding solids are quickly hydrated and can then increase yields and functionality.

Some systems today are using ultraviolet light treatment systems to disinfect brines and help improve and maintain the microbe quality of brines, he says. Emerging pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes can be resistant to chlorine, so nonconventional methods are being tested.

“If using brines, then it’s also important to have a membrane filtration system to remove organic materials,” says Sindelar.

Currently, brine treatment technologies can utilize membrane filtration processes, including reverse osmosis, ion exchange processes or evaporation processes, which can be more tolerant of organics, hydrocarbons or hardness salts but have high energy consumption and possible corrosion.


Keeping marinades clean

Better in-plant and equipment sanitation, both in terms of greater awareness and better plant and equipment design, allows for easier and more effective sanitation.

“This extends all the way back to the animal harvest area to produce cleaner raw materials for later use,” says Sebranek. “This not only improves safety but also improves product quality and shelf life.”

Indeed, the safety of the ingredients used for the marinades, especially the spices (which are sanitized with irradiation, steam pasteurization or fumigation with ethylene oxide, a pesticide), is critical.

“The ingredients used in post-process applications are safe,” Sindelar says. “But they aren’t always transported in a hospitable setting.”

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration said 12 percent of spices imported to the United States were contaminated with insects, insect parts, rodent hairs and other materials, while 7 percent had Salmonella.

Sindelar notes more consumers today are naturally interested in the origin of marinade ingredients, whether it is because of taste or safety. Indeed, the FDA noted last year that spice imports from Mexico and India were most contaminated.