ABSTRACT: Temperature is a crucial factor affecting the quality and safety of food products during both distribution and storage. The difficulty in controlling and monitoring the temperature history of food products makes it difficult to precisely predict shelf life. Time–temperature indicators (TTIs) provide a visual summary of a product’s accumulated chill-chain history, recording the effects of both time and temperature. Attempts have been made to develop a prototype of a time–temperature indicator based on the diffusion of lactic acid, which is temperature-dependent. Four lactic acid-based TTIs were made in different substrate concentrations. Color changes associated with the diffusion of lactic acid were monitored. In the vapor diffusion of lactic acid, an irreversible color change of a chemical chromatic indicator (from green to red) clearly and progressively occurred due to the pH reduction. The temperature dependence of these TTIs kinetics was characterized isothermally in the range of 4–45 °C, yielding activation energy (Ea) of, approximately, 50 kJ mol−1. The mathematical models of each TTI were established according to the relationships between color changes and time and temperature. The differences between the Ea values of the TTIs and the Ea associated with food quality losses – including enzymatic loss, hydrolysis, lipid oxidation, nutrient loss and microbial growth – were less than 40 kJ mol−1, and therefore these TTIs could be considered as good candidates to monitor food quality losses. Although these TTIs do not cover the whole range of food quality losses, they could be applied to show the time–temperature history of some foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and to indicate food quality associated with time–temperature exposure.
Journal of Food Engineering 10/2010; 100(3):427-434. · 2.41 Impact Factor