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It’s not commonly known just how important the role of pH is in our foods. Did you know pH actually controls the availability of nutrients in the foods we eat? For many foods, the pH must be kept within a narrow range so that the food can be conserved for a longer period.
The food pH scale helps to understand precisely how a specific ingredient might react with another. It also determines how a product might fare in a given environment.
What is it?
The pH value of a food is a direct function of the free hydrogen ions present in that food. Acids present in foods release free hydrogen ions; the hydrogen ions give acid foods their distinctive sour flavour. Thus, pH may be defined as a measure of free acidity.
Because of this, whether you monitoring or controlling the pH of your soil, your water, or your food & beverage products, the importance of bang-on accuracy, cannot be underestimated. For example, batter for baking bread is acidified to extend the shelf life of the bread, as are sauces such as mayonnaise. When canning low-acid foods extra care must be taken to kill bacterial spores because they can grow when pH is greater than 4.6, potentially causing what is known as ‘botulism.’
Here are some food features and processes influenced by pH levels:
- Production: How we prepare food is largely influenced by food ingredient acidity. For example, bread fermentation and wine ageing are greatly affected by pH. That acidity/alkalinity ratio determines the speed and duration of the reactions necessary to create the desired end product.
- Taste: Flavours change dramatically by pH level. Someone might prefer more of a bite that comes from acidic food and beverages — a dry wine, for example. The pH level can also diminish the intensity of sour tastes. That same science can be applied to dairy products and processed food.
- Texture: Almost more than taste, consumers judge a product by how it feels. The texture of food can make a consumer’s mouth water or cringe. Adjustments in pH lead to alterations in final product texture, influencing the perception of enjoyment by the consumer. For example a creamy blue cheese versus a crumbly aged Gouda.
- Appearance: Looks matter with food. Veggies are an excellent example of food products that are judged largely by how green and crisp they appear. The appearance of produce acts as a barometer for pH levels as they play a role in outer colour and texture. Food manufacturers can slow the change in colour by tweaking pH levels using specific substances and ingredients during preparation. Likewise, they can stop pH changes entirely using freezing techniques.
Among the reasons for measuring pH in food processing include:
- To produce products with consistent well defined properties
- To efficiently produce products at optimal cost
- To avoid causing health problems to consumers
- To meet regulatory requirements
TPS is a leading manufacturer and servicing provider of pH measuring instruments. Discover our range in our online shop.