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Infant formula (IF) is submitted to several heat treatments during production, which can lead to denaturation or aggregation of proteins and promote Maillard reaction. The objective of this study was to investigate innovative minimal processing routes for the production of first-age IF powder, thus ensuring microbial safety with minimal level of protein denaturation. Three nutritionally complete IF powders were produced at a semi-industrial scale based on ingredients obtained by fresh bovine milk microfiltration (0.8 and 0.1-µm pore size membranes). Low-temperature vacuum evaporation (50°C) and spray-drying (inlet and outlet temperatures of 160 and 70°C, respectively) were conducted to produce the T- formula with no additional heat treatment. The T+ formula was produced with a moderate heat treatment (75°C for 2 min) applied before spray-drying, whereas the T+++ formula received successive heat treatments (72°C for 30 s on the milk; 90°C for 2-3 s before evaporation; 85°C for 2 min before spray-drying), thus mimicking commercial powdered IF. Protein denaturation and Maillard reaction products were followed throughout the production steps and the physicochemical properties of the powders were characterized. The 3 IF powders presented satisfactory physical properties in terms of aw, free fat content, glass transition temperature, and solubility index, as well as satisfactory bacteriological quality with a total flora <103 cfu/g and an absence of pathogens when a high level of bacteriological quality of the ingredients was ensured. Protein denaturation occurred mostly during the heat treatments of T+ and T+++ and was limited during the spray-drying process. The IF powder produced without heat treatment (T-) presented a protein denaturation extent (6 ± 4%) significantly lower than that in T+++ (58 ± 0%), but not significantly different from that in T+ (10 ± 4%). Although T- tended to contain less Maillard reaction products than T+ and T+++, the Maillard reaction products did not significantly discriminate the infant formulas in the frame of this work. The present study demonstrated the feasibility of producing at a semi-industrial scale an infant formula being bacteriologically safe and containing a high content of native proteins. Application of a moderate heat treatment before spray-drying could further guarantee the microbiological quality of the IF powders while maintaining a low protein denaturation extent. This study opens up new avenues for the production of minimally processed IF powders. Copyright © 2021 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Citation

X Yu, N Leconte, S Méjean, G Garric, S Even, G Henry, F J Tessier, M Howsam, T Croguennec, G Gésan-Guiziou, D Dupont, R Jeantet, A Deglaire. Semi-industrial production of a minimally processed infant formula powder using membrane filtration. Journal of dairy science. 2021 May;104(5):5265-5278

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PMID: 33685709

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