On-line sensor technology is currently emerging to address both process efficiency and quality improvement in food processing operations. Processing of food products is complex, involving many steps which, when controlled, can have a direct effect on the quality of the product as perceived by the consumer. To control a food process, sensor technology can be coupled with process control systems. This technology can take many forms, from simple physical measurements of material weight and ingredient size, to complex analytical chemical and biosensors which can measure chemical reactions as they are occurring during food production.

The challenge for food processors, therefore, is to select the best sensor and overall process control strategy for a given process. This involves knowledge of sensor technologies and types, as well as knowledge of the process and the steps which need to be monitored and controlled.

At the research level, identification and synthesis of new materials is a key factor in the development of new sensors for on-line use. Cooperation between the material scientist, the food scientist, the physical chemist, the physicist, and the engineer is important to be able to understand and tailor sensor performance for the on-line processing environments of the food processor. Such research studies are giving rise to new sensors including polymers, ceramics, and new optical systems.

It is hoped that this chapter will provide readers with the tools necessary for selection of sensors for targeted applications. Although further research and development is necessary to bring many of these emerging sensor technologies to the market, successes like those described from laboratories at the Center for Advanced Food Technology, the Center for Process Analytical Chemistry, the Japanese Research and Development Association for Sensing in the Food Industry, the Leatherhead Research Association, and the Campden Food and Drink Research Association, illustrates that sensing technology is coming of age in today's food processing industry.

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