High-quality whey proteins for foodstuffs

Jan 17, 2014
Whey, which occurs as a waste material from cheese production, contains valuable proteins. In the project Whey2Food these proteins are selectively enriched for use in food products. Credit: Universität Hohenheim

Whey resulting from cheese production contains valuable proteins that still often remain unused. In the EU project Whey2Food the University of Hohenheim and the Fraunhofer IGB, together with partners from industry, are investigating how high-quality whey proteins can be obtained for food with the assistance of a new electromembrane process.

The production of cheese and casein results in large quantities of whey. 81 million tonnes of the watery waste material come together per year in the EU alone. Nowadays about 40 per cent of this is already processed by filtration to make whey concentrate and further processed to provide a wide range of whey products. However, most of the whey still remains unused. In addition to lactose and minerals, whey contains above all valuable . Dr. Ana Lucia Vásquez, who heads the project at the IGB, describes the economic potential and the objective of the new project: "The proteins could be used in the as a natural binding agent and as emulsifiers." She further explains: "They are equally well suited as a functional food supplement in baby formula or dietary foods or as a source of proteins in sports drinks for athletes."

For these applications the proteins first of all have to be isolated from the whey. There are already basic methods of obtaining specific milk proteins, for example the antithrombogenic casein macropeptide, from whey. However, the chromatographic techniques used for this purpose are complex and are not suitable for a high throughput. Whey concentrate is obtained by means of ultrafiltration. In this process the little whey molecules – water, minerals and lactose – pass through the pores of a membrane while proteins are retained. But here the proteins are only concentrated as a whole, but not separated according to functional protein fractions. Additionally, residues are quickly deposited on the membranes. This fouling impairs the filtration capability so that the membranes frequently have to be cleaned.

To enrich proteins selectively and to add them to foods in accordance with their nutritional or technological-functional properties, the Whey2Food project intends to further develop an electromembrame process initially investigated at the University of Hohenheim. "The method combines pressure filtration through a porous membrane with an electric field. The proteins are not only separated according to their size, but at the same time according to their charge," Vásquez explains. Compared with ultrafiltration this increases the yield and reduces the cleaning required. "In preliminary tests trials we were able to demonstrate that peptides or fragments such as casein macropeptide can be separated from two further typical whey proteins, a-lactalbumin and b-lactoglobulin, with the help of the electromembrane process," says Professor Dr.-Ing. Jörg Hinrichs from the Institute of Food Science and Biotechnology at the University of Hohenheim.

Now the researchers want to optimize the process for industrially relevant quantities and in conformity with the hygiene and cleaning standards required for food manufacturers. "We will then test the process under realistic conditions in continuous operation with an automated pilot plant on the premises of our project partners Rovita and Schwarzwaldmilch," says Vásquez. A further advantage of the electromembrane is a reduction of the fouling. This also lowers the operating costs and the energy consumption.

Explore further: New technique reveals immune cell motion through variety of tissues

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Purifying dairy wastewater while producing electricity

Jun 14, 2013

In an EU-funded project the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart is developing, together with industrial and scientific partners, a modular system to purify dairy wastewater ...

Film coatings made from whey

Jan 03, 2012

Convenience foods are growing in popularity, and the food they contain is usually protected by films based on petrochemicals. Now researchers have not only developed a biomaterial from whey protein, they have ...

Recommended for you

'Global positioning' for molecules

Dec 19, 2014

In everyday life, the global positioning system (GPS) can be employed to reliably determine the momentary location of one en route to the desired destination. Scientists from the Institute of Physical and ...

Cells build 'cupboards' to store metals

Dec 17, 2014

Lawrence Livermore researchers in conjunction with collaborators at University of California (link is external), Los Angeles have found that some cells build intracellular compartments that allow the cell ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.