Processing and Storage stability of Skim Milk Powder : Monitoring Early and Advanced Stages of the Maillard Reaction

Abstract: The non-enzymatic browning known as the Maillard reaction has been the subject of extensive investigation for decades. Studies have focused on areas such as changes in flavour, colour, texture, and the nutritional properties of food materials as a result of this reaction. However, this complex reaction between the amino acids in proteins and reducing sugars in carbohydrates, is still not fully understood, especially the reaction mechanisms and potential impacts on health.Skim milk powder (SMP), is a multi-functional and extremely popular ingredient in the food industry, and is used in infant formulas, reconstituted and fermented dairy products, frozen desserts, bakery products, coffee whiteners, and even processed meat products. Despite the apparent good stability of SMP, it is prone to the Maillard reaction and its consequences, due to its composition, as well as the application of various kinds of thermal processing, and subsequent prolonged shelf life.The aims of this work were thus to improve our understanding of the occurrence of the Maillard reaction in SMP after the application of different drying techniques, and during subsequent storage under realistic conditions, in order to be able to predict and to control the reaction. Previous studies have mainly been conducted on model food systems at the conditions applicable to processing, i.e. at temperatures above 40 ºC. In the present work, changes in two indicators of the early and advanced stages of the Maillard reaction, namely the available lysine and carboxymethyl lysine (CML), respectively, were monitored during storage.To obtain a better understanding of the impact of processing on the progression of the reaction, three different drying techniques were studied and compared on pilot scale: freeze-drying, spray-drying and drum-drying. The extent of the reaction during prolonged storage for 200 days was studied, considering three storage variables: temperature, relative humidity (RH) and time.The kinetics of the available lysine in a commercial, industrially produced SMP was subsequently established over 30 days (the maximum recommended period for the consumption of opened packages) under conditions normally encountered during domestic storage. Furthermore, theearly and advanced stages of the reaction were studied in selected infant formulas available on the Swedish market.The results of these studies showed that the drying technique had a significant impact on the initiation of the Maillard reaction. Furthermore, the storage variables (temperature, RH and time) were also crucial factors in the gradual progression of the reaction during storage. The pattern of the decrease in the available lysine content during 200 days of storage was similar, regardless of the type of SMP. After storage at 52% RH and 30 ºC, a 39.2 – 45.9% decrease in the available lysine content was seen after 200 days. The corresponding value following storage at 52% RH and 20 ºC was 21.2 – 31.8%, indicating the importance of the storage temperature. Storage at 33% RH and 30 ºC caused a 5.2 – 22.4% decrease in the available lysine content, while no significant decrease in the available lysine content was seen after storage at 33% RH and 20 ºC, thus it was considered to be the ideal storage conditions for SMP.Studies of the advanced phase of the Maillard reaction using CML revealed that twice as much CML was formed in the spray-dried powders, than in the freeze-dried samples, after 200 days. The corresponding value in the drum-dried samples was 1.6 times that in the freeze-dried samples.The findings of this work have practical implications for SMP and SMP-based products in the food industry, and can be used to predict and control the Maillard reaction during storage, in order to ensure the safety of these products on the market.