Unitherm Food Systems, Bristow, Okla., received U.S. Patent No. 9,215,892 B2 for its new system and method for pasteurizing the surface of a food product. The new machine uses a flame tube to remove the skin and outer layer of an onion before passing the onions through a cold bath to cool. The pasteurized and washed product is said to retain the same color and flavor of the original product, while increasing yield and reducing the risk of contamination. The patent was filed in August 2013 and approved on Dec. 22, 2015.

Traditionally, onions are processed using a top and tail cutter, which can introduce contamination and results in product loss of up to 30% by weight. Unitherm’s new flame pasteurization system solves these problems and has no impact on the product’s appearance or taste.

After pasteurization, onions can immediately be put into the dicing machine. Several companies already use the flame pasteurizer, including Garden Fresh, which uses it to prepare onions for salsa, and J.R. Simplot, which uses the machine in its Tasmania, Australia, operations.

“With new food safety regulations coming into play, there is now much more scrutiny of food coming from the earth,” says Unitherm founder and CEO David Howard. “This has resulted in more recalls of vegetable products. With my machine, processors know they aren’t bringing any pathogens into their system. Because of the substantially higher yield, our new system can pay for itself within 12 months. What’s more, the onion that comes out of the pasteurizer tastes exactly the same as the onion that went in.”