According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), agricultural products account for about 8.9% of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
However, due to cracking, abrasion, rotting, and mechanical damages in food, about 40% of these agricultural products are lost, gone to waste, during post-harvest handling and processing.
So, in order to lessen these agricultural losses, food preservation is applied. This includes food drying, the oldest and the most common form of food preservation.
Food drying is the removal of water in food and involves the application of high temperature to prolong shelf life of fresh produce like fruits and vegetables.
However, the use of high temperature negatively affects the sensory and nutritional qualities of food.
In response, the Nutrition and Food Research and Development Division of the DOST-FNRI came up with the Low Heat, Low Humidity Drying System or LH2 to minimize the volume of agricultural loss while maintaining the nutritional and sensory property of dried products.
The LH2 is a new technique of preserving fruits and vegetables. It uses desiccants to reduce drying air’s humidity that enables dehydration at lower temperature, resulting in retained sensory and nutritional properties.
Fruits and vegetables that have been dried through the DOST-FNRI’s LH2 are shelf-stable for six months and four months, respectively.
Sensory evaluation of LH2-dried fruits and vegetables among trained panelists obtained an average rating of 7 or “like moderately.”
The results of microbial analyses done on the dried products showed the these are within the safe range for microbial load and are safe for consumption.
The LH2-dried fruits and vegetables can be healthier options and offer value-adding to local produce with higher nutrition retention and sensory acceptability.
These dried products can also be included in relief packs distributed as part of emergency response during disasters, calamities, and also during pandemics.
Moreover, the construction of the DOST-FNRI’s Low Heat, Low Humidity Drying System (LH2) intended for large scale production is now ongoing.
Once built, pilot scale production and feasibility studies will follow.
The roll-out and commercialization of the technology will push through after the pilot scale production and conduct of feasibility study.
On the other hand, the adoption of this technology will be through the technology transfer program of DOST-FNRI.
The DOST-FNRI is optimistic that the Low Heat, Low Humidity Drying System (LH2) will increase production of locally-produced dried fruits and vegetables that are nutritious, healthier, and sensory acceptable.
For more updates about the DOST-FNRI’s Low Heat, Low Humidity Drying System (LH2), regularly visit their website www.fnri.dost.gov.ph and their social media platforms as stated herein.