Campus News

Director details how new technique could bring fresher, healthier juice

Jim Gratzek, director of UGA’s Food Product Innovation Commercialization Center, recently spoke with Fox5 about a new technique to produce fresher, healthier juice.

Unpasteurized juice can harbor harmful bacteria that can make consumers sick.

“Well, they’re the classic ones that you hear about in the news – listeria, salmonella, E. coli,” he said. “Especially if you’re immunocompromised, they’re trouble. Even if you’re a healthy individual, they’ll make you sick.”

Most juice is pasteurized, or treated with very high heat, to kill bacteria. Gratzek and his team on the Griffin campus are working with a company called Food Physics on a new way to process juice with less heat using pulse electrical field (or PEF) technology: using bursts of electricity to shock the juice and kill the bacteria, yeast or mold.

“We’re talking 20,000 volts per centimeter; that’s a lot of volts,” he said.

To test it, the researchers used a Georgia-made satsuma orange juice blend and watermelon lemon juice blend, to process the juice without losing the fresh-squeezed taste.

“If we can get it right, we are talking about 20, 30, 40 degrees Fahrenheit lower temperature for things like milk and most juices and other things like almond milk and oat milk and coconut milk,” Gratzek said.

Gratzek predicts the technique will be used on other food types.

“If the wholesomeness and initial quality of a foodstuff is better maintained as a result of the process, the food could be expected to be en masse healthier,” he said.