Butter Fat Process Monitoring

Milk is the key ingredient in the production of all dairy products. Raw milk has three main components, fat, protein and lactose. Differences in the milk composition can have an impact on the quality and properties of the final dairy products. For example, the relative fat concentration differentiates light cream from heavy cream.
During dairy production, as well as monitoring for the desired ratios of the various milk components, it is also important to check for the presence of adulterants like antibiotics. Antibotic residues, as well as those of other vetinary products, can sometimes be found in raw milk where cattle have ingested large concentrations. This milk must be discarded before it enters the supply chain, therefore having techniques to quantitatively screen for these compounds is critical.
One technique that is well-suited to online process monitoring of milk and dairy products is near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy. NIR spectroscopy is a qualitative and quantitative technique that can be used to identify chemical compounds in complex mixtures. Many of the fats and proteins that are crucial parameters in dairy processing have distinct spectral features occurring at the longer wavelengths in the near-infrared region (~ 1000 – 2000 nm), making near-infrared spectroscopy a powerful process analytical technology for dairy process monitoring.

Process Monitoring
Food adulteration monitoring also plays an important role in dairy processing. This may be in screening for antibiotics, that can be identified and quantified using NIR spectroscopy, or checking the fat composition. The butter fat content in dairy products is key to producing different items, from 0 % butter fat content in skim milk, to heavy creams with 36 % butter fat.

Suitable Instruments
As vegetable oils are often significantly cheaper than animal fats, adulteration of butters with vegetable oils is a known fraudulent practice, but in-situ measurements that allow for clear identification of different fat types can be challenging. For dairy production, monitoring fat levels is key for process optimization, but having the ability to monitor for potential adulterants arising from accidental equipment contamination or process failures also helps minimize wastage and ensure excellent in-house quality control.
Butter fat has a clear absorption feature between 1700 – 1800 nm which can be monitored to quantify fat concentrations. In dairy production, it is important to maintain consistent and accurate batch-to-batch measurements for product quality control, which near-infrared spectroscopy can achieve. Process control for butterfat levels is an essential part of dairy manufacture to make the correct target products. Finished product types may only differ by a few percent in butterfat concentration, so accurate measurement is essential.
One challenge for dairy processing plants is that, when changing over production to a new product with a different butter fat concentration, the product contact equipment needs to be cleaned. Having analytical tools that can identify when butter fat concentrations are in a given range is key to minimizing production downtime with significant cost-saving potential.
tec5USA’s NIR spectrometer is designed with in situ analysis of dairy products in mind. As such, it comes with the only 3-A certified hygienic optical probe on the market for use in dairy production applications.

The tec5USA NIR spectrometer system is available in wavelength ranges spanning 960 – 2150 nm with a wavelength accuracy of ± 1 nm an industry leading spectral resolution. This wavelength range is ideally suited for detecting the characteristic absorption features of the chemical compounds present in dairy products, including butter fats. This allows for accurate determination of the exact butterfat levels for making the desired product. The spectrometer comes with a fully process capable communications system that can be interfaced with distributed control systems for online process control and automation.

Essential hygiene protocols and standards for food processing have been incorporated into tec5’s spectrometer design. The sample probe is the world’s only certified 3-A probe (no. 46-04) to recognize its hygienic design, which helps ensure food safety standards and reduce the risk of impurities and cross-contamination. It is also compatible with cleaning in place or sterilization in place procedures to maximize process uptime. All materials used are FDA/USDA compliant.

At the heart of the detection system of the tec5USA spectrometer is a Hamamatsu Cooled InGaAs Photodiode Array, available in either 256 or 512 pixel versions. The holographic gratings have been chosen to give both good flat field correction of the spectral imaging and maximum efficiency in the near-infrared wavelength range. As well as achieving a ± 1 nm wavelength accuracy, the detection system is permanently wavelength calibrated and the high throughput gives it excellent sensitivity.

The spectrometer is designed to be rugged and robust, so measurements are not affected by changes in temperature or vibrations in the surrounding environment. This makes for high accuracy and high precision measurements that can be performed efficiently for live process monitoring and control. In addition, the stability and reduced calibration requirements minimize the maintenance and set-up time for the instrument, allowing for the greatest cost-savings benefit possible.

tec5USA has drawn upon its extensive expertise in process monitoring and control spectroscopy to design this NIR spectrometer specifically for the dairy processing industry. The modular design of the spectrometer means that tec5USA can work with you to design the instrument for your specific requirements or that additional components can be added at a later date. Contact tec5USA today to see how their robust, accurate spectrometers can pave the way for cost-savings in your production processes and improve your final product quality control.

About tec5USA
tec5USA is a leading designer and manufacturer of tailored inline process spectrometers (UV-VIS-NIR, LIBS and Raman) across a wide spectrum of major industries and contract manufacturer for photonics devices in the life sciences, medical devices, and lab analyzer instrumentation space.
Since 2001, industry giants such as 3M, Merck, Siemens, Philips, BASF, Sanofi, and many others have trusted us with their R&D and manufacturing needs based on our sterling reputation as an internationally renowned and well-established spectroscopy partner.
tec5USA is the North American affiliate of tec5 AG, founded in 1993 and located in Germany, operating through subsidiaries and partners worldwide. We are a member of the international photonics group, Nynomic AG, and supported by a team of global scientists, developers, and engineers dedicated to delivering unique solutions for our customers.
Our core product line of rapid inline spectroscopy solutions provides real-time measurements and accurate process verification resulting in superior cost-savings and yield maximization, consistent quality, and end-to-end supply chain optimization.
Interested in meeting your supply, demand, and sales objectives? How about increasing your production efficiency? Significantly improve processes and reduce costs, stay within specs, avoid fines and recalls, minimize waste and rework, and save energy and raw materials with us. We provide world-class service, excellent quality, and the technical expertise to back it up.

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