18 Oct Technology and innovation in aged care catering
Technology and innovation will be key to managing the complexity of allergies, textures and individual diets in the new world of person-centred care. So, how is the industry adapting? Here are some advances we’re seeing right now.
3D food printing, complete meals on a plate, plus a move to more sustainable packaging
While still very much in the prototype phase, 3D food printing could be the way to provide safe and enjoyable meals for those on individual diets. Using a process known as additive manufacturing, 3D deposition printers slowly deposit layers of material, one on top of the other, until a product is created.
Research is currently underway to examine the potential of 3D food printing technology to create natural and nutritious foods suitable for people on individual diets such as gluten free, high protein, low salt or for those with dysphagia.
Complete frozen texture modified meals that can be plated without extra handling have arrived. Nutritious Cuisine, a manufacturer of quality texture modified foods in Queensland, uses a unique Torus Pack that allows the contents to be heated and served directly onto a plate with just a pull of a tab and no food wastage. Joel Andrade, food technologist at Nutritious Cuisine, explains: “The Torus meal trays allow for convenience, compliance and quality. Pre heated shaped texture modified meals can be dropped straight onto a plate, sauced and served. No more scooping required!”
If you’re an aged care chef who prefers to produce texture modified foods in-house, Nutritious Cuisine has also developed a new range of natural thickeners that are a great alternative to gum-based thickening products. Available to purchase online, these food-based thickening agents aim to better preserve the flavour and mouth-feel of texture modified foods while allowing them to stay stable at temperatures above 75 degrees celsius.
New and improved ingredients to fortify texture modified meals naturally
Natural hemp powder is a complete protein that packs antioxidants, minerals, fibre and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It’s a good choice, especially for vegans. It also happens to be the newest ingredient in the upgraded vegetable range about to be released by Textured Concept Foods, a leading texture modified food manufacturer based in Melbourne.
Managing Director, Darren Benfell, explains: “Use of natural hemp powder increases the nutritional profile of our vegetable range, which ensures diners receive greater nutrition with every mouthful. Furthermore, we are always working to assist those with allergies where we can and this change allows us to replace milk powder used previously, so we can now provide lactose free products. We are pleased to be using a natural product, grown in Australia, to improve our offering to the healthcare market.”
In another first for the industry, Textured Concept Foods is also setting a global standard through its investment in recyclable Australian packaging in response to the Government’s introduction of a ‘forever chemicals ban’ on some plastic packaging from overseas suppliers. Textured Concept Foods has sourced new Australian-made packaging which has vastly improved its sustainability footprint, with items in use now being 80—100% recyclable.
Hybrid model food production – where quality meets convenience
A complaint often heard in aged care is about the quality and lack of tenderness of meat. This could be due to a number of factors, such as the meat’s quality, the cooking process or the equipment used. A hybrid model of food production, whereby meat is purchased pre-cooked in bulk and combined with fresh herbs, vegetables and sauces on site, could be a great solution.
When you consider the labour component of cooking the dishes and wastage costs are already absorbed in the price of the food purchase, the hybrid model could be a very feasible way to increase choice for residents without blowing out food and labour costs. Quality control is maintained, on-site cooking processes are reduced and food safety is improved.
This hybrid model can be further enhanced with the use of new, fit-for-purpose food storage methods, such as the Evereo ‘hot fridge’.
New food storage methods
The idea of a ‘hot fridge’ may have many scratching their heads, but thanks to Unox Australia, the term is no longer an oxymoron.
The Evereo hot fridge holds food above the temperature killstep of 72 degrees celsius so meals held in the hot fridge are always warm and ready to serve instantly. The hot fridge also helps to preserve the flavour and consistency of foods as the cooling and reheating process can negatively impact both. It is a piece of technology that could completely change what meal service looks and tastes like in the future.
For example, slow-cooked braises and sous vide meats can be purchased in bulk trays and stored safely in the hot fridge for up to a week. Not only is it more cost effective, it frees up valuable time for chefs to plate with greater care or spend more time on fresh items to accompany the main protein.
Digitising food safety monitoring
A key component of a Class 1 Food Safety Program is the requirement to monitor and record all fridge and freezer temperatures. Testing must be conducted at least twice daily and the findings, plus any corrective actions (if they are outside their acceptable ranges), must be documented.
For those lucky enough to only have a few units to temperature check, this is an easy task. However, for those sites that have multiple dining rooms and units across an expansive site, it can be a very time-consuming and costly process!
Testo, a market leader in portable and stationary measurement technology, has harnessed the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) by creating online data loggers that provide real-time monitoring of temperatures across appliances, ovens, fridges and cool rooms. The instruments are HACCP certified to guarantee the accurate measuring results needed for compliance with food safety regulations and data is collated to provide an overview of temperature checks completed and pending.
Care catering technology that brings all the pieces together
Coming in 2020, our new generation Catering software will offer meal choice blocking, allergy alerts, point of service ordering and meal delivery status. In addition, our powerful Budgets forecasting and expense analysis tool will allow aged care chefs to adjust menus and recipes and see the cost impact instantly.
Our new Surveys and Events products will join all the dots across catering and lifestyle. Capture resident and family feedback on menu design and coordinate lifestyle activities and stand alone menus that dovetail beautifully into the main menu and pantry lists.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be in aged care, so watch this space!