In the present work, the thermal processing of table olives in brine in a stationary metal can was studied through computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The flow patterns of the brine and the temperature evolution in the olives and brine during the heating and the cooling cycles of the process were calculated using the CFD code. Experimental temperature measurements at 3 points (2 inside model olive particles and 1 at a point in the brine) in a can (with dimensions of 75 mm × 105 mm) filled with 48 olives in 4% (w/v) brine, initially held at 20 °C, heated in water at 100 °C for 10 min, and thereafter cooled in water at about 20 °C for 10 min, validated model predictions. The distribution of temperature and F-values and the location of the slowest heating zone and the critical point within the product, as far as microbial destruction is concerned, were assessed for several cases. For the cases studied, the critical point was located at the interior of the olives at the 2nd, or between the 1st and the 2nd olive row from the bottom of the container, the exact location being affected by olive size, olive arrangement, and geometry of the container.
The resulting knowledge from the present paper will help in thermal process optimization of table olives which will lead to the production of safe and high-quality product with reduced salt content. In the present paper, only the safety issue, through the determination of the location of the critical point, as far as microbial destruction is concerned, was addressed.