Title:
Sterilized moist snuff and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Sterilized moist tobacco products and methods for sterilizing moist tobacco products are provided. The moist tobacco is subjected to a thermal stabilization treatment after it has been packaged in its final, consumer-ready container. Such thermal stabilization pasteurizes, sterilizes or otherwise treats the finished moist tobacco so that the concentration of undesirable microflora present within the product is reduced or eliminated. By heating the moist tobacco after is has been packaged, harmful microorganisms are destroyed and spoilage is substantially delayed or does not occur at all without the need for refrigeration of the container. The volatile compounds in the tobacco, such as flavors, are retained in the container. Downstream TSNA production may also be reduced and the shelf life can be extended.



Inventors:
Winterson, Warren D. (Chester, VA, US)
Holland, Tommy C. (Midlothian, VA, US)
Application Number:
12/003219
Publication Date:
07/03/2008
Filing Date:
12/20/2007
Assignee:
Philip Morris USA Inc. (Richmond, VA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A24B3/10; A24B15/18
View Patent Images:
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Foreign References:
JP2005168544A
Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, PHU HOANG
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ALCS Law Dept. - Product and IP c/o (BUCHANAN, INGERSOLL & ROONEY PC POST OFFICE BOX 1404, ALEXANDRIA, VA, 22313-1404, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A process for treating a moist tobacco product comprising the step of: subjecting a sealed container having an amount of moist tobacco packed therein to a thermal stabilization treatment.

2. The process of claim 1, wherein the microorganism count of said moist tobacco after treatment is less than the microorganism count immediately prior to said treatment.

3. The process of claim 2, wherein said moist tobacco immediately after said thermal stabilization treatment is aseptic.

4. The process of claim 3, wherein the microorganism count of said moist tobacco immediately after said thermal stabilization treatment is reduced by at least about 99%.

5. The process of claim 1, wherein the microorganism count of said moist tobacco immediately after said thermal stabilization treatment is reduced by at least about 50%.

6. The process of claim 1, wherein said thermal stabilization treatment is applied for a period of time sufficient to reduce said bacteria count of said moist tobacco by about 50% to 100%.

7. The process of claim 1, wherein said thermal stabilization treatment is applied for less than about 3 hours.

8. The process of claim 7, wherein said thermal stabilization treatment is applied for about 3 minutes to about 2 hours.

9. The process of claim 8, wherein said thermal stabilization treatment is applied for about 3 minutes to 10 minutes

10. The process of claim 1, wherein said thermal stabilization treatment is conducted at a temperature greater than about 150° F.

11. The process of claim 1, wherein the moisture content of said moist tobacco is less than about 55%.

12. The process of claim 1, wherein the moisture content of said moist tobacco is greater than about 20%.

13. The process of claim 1, wherein after the thermal stabilization treatment, the process further includes the step of cooling the tobacco container having an amount of moist tobacco packed therein.

14. The process of claim 13, wherein said tobacco container is cooled to between about 50 and 90° F.

15. A process for treating a moist tobacco product comprising the steps of: packaging a moist tobacco product in a tobacco container; sealing the container hermetically; heating the sealed tobacco container to a temperature sufficient to destroy microorganisms in the moist tobacco; and cooling the container.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority under 35 USC §119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/877,368, filed on Dec. 28, 2006, the entire content of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND

Snuff is one of the oldest tobacco products known. There are two types of snuff, dry snuff and moist snuff. Dry snuff is produced as a dry powder, while moist snuff is usually finely cut, rather than ground, and maintains a high moisture content. Because of the moisture content of tobacco products like moist snuff tobacco, the shelf-life is short due to the presence and growth of bacteria.

The present invention relates generally to smokeless tobacco compositions, and more specifically to moist tobacco product, and methods for sterilizing the same to increase shelf-life. More particularly, the process relates to subjecting moist tobacco to a thermal sterilization treatment after packaging, but prior to distribution to consumers, in order to reduce microbial content.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

In one embodiment, the process for treating smokeless tobacco includes subjecting a tobacco container having an amount of moist tobacco packed therein to a thermal stabilization treatment. By heating the moist tobacco after it has been packaged in its final consumer-ready container, microorganisms are destroyed and spoilage is substantially delayed or prevented. Because moist tobacco is marketed in small containers, waiting until after it has been packaged before subjecting it to heat treatment requires only a short heating time to destroy microorganisms. Additionally, by heat-treating the tobacco in its container, the volatile compounds in the tobacco, such as flavors, are retained within the container, downstream TSNA production may be reduced, and/or the product's shelf-life is extended.

In order to reduce the growth of undesirable microflora in moist tobacco, the tobacco is subjected to thermal stabilization treatment after it has been packaged in its final, consumer-ready containers. Such thermal stabilization preferably pasteurizes, sterilizes or otherwise treats the finished moist tobacco so that the concentration of microflora present within the product is reduced to a greater extent than if sterilization took place before the snuff is packaged. A reduction in the concentration of bacteria, in turn, results in an extended shelf life, which in turn will ease some of the industry's reliance on cumbersome and expensive distribution systems, while reducing spoilage and improving consumer satisfaction.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

According to a first embodiment, moist tobacco product is prepared and packaged in anticipation of its delivery to the end user. Once the tobacco product is packaged, the product is subjected to a thermal stabilization process to destroy bacteria.

The process for sterilizing tobacco containers containing moist tobacco involves heat treating a container to sterilize its contents. The tobacco container must be capable of withstanding pressure differential between the external sterlizing medium (e.g. steam) and any pressure which builds up within the container as its volatile constituents attempt to vaporize. Preferably, volatile compounds are kept within the container. Known machines, such as a modern retort, aid in minimizing the pressure differential.

The tobacco containers may include any type of container in which moist tobacco products are commonly packed. Commercially available tobacco containers usually include a cup-shaped circular cover adapted to slide or screw onto a cup-shaped body. The cover and body may be made of metal, plastic, or cardboard. A band-type label is adhered to the outer sides of the cover and the body and extends around the joint between the two. The tobacco container may be a low profile cylindrical container in which about 1.2 ounces of a moist tobacco product is typically packed.

Since this process includes hermetically sealing the tobacco container, it may be beneficial to employ a pull tab design on the top of the can like that of various canned food products to aid in ease of use and opening.

Upon its placement in the container, the moist tobacco may have a moisture content of about 20 to 60%. Preferably, the moisture content is less than about 55%. Also preferably, the moisture content is greater than about 20%.

To avoid degradation of the tobacco, once the finished moist tobacco product is placed in consumer-ready containers and sealed, suitable processing equipment is employed to thermally stabilize the product. The thermal stabilization treatment involves pasteurizing, sterilizing or otherwise subjecting the finished, packaged tobacco product to heat in order to reduce the concentration of microflora present within the sealed container and improve the product's shelf-life.

Because the tobacco has already been packaged and is no longer subject to the possibility of being exposed or handled at the factory, the volatile flavors are retained within the container until the container is opened by the end user. Preferably, neither the product's taste nor moisture level is significantly sacrificed. Production of TSNA's may also be retarded.

Technologies that can be used to carry out pasteurization, sterilization or other reductions in microflora include any treatment that will transfer heat in an amount sufficient to kill all or nearly all bacteria present, including but not limited to the various techniques for thermally processing containers packed with food in U.S. Pat. No. 4,880,129, such as rotary continuous cookers, still retorts and the like.

The duration and temperature of the thermal stabilization treatment will vary depending upon which method of heating is chosen. Heat should be applied at a temperature for a period of time corresponding with predetermined maximums known to guarantee that all or nearly all common spoilage microorganisms will be destroyed. In a preferred embodiment, the temperature is greater than about 150° F.

Due to the small size of the tobacco container and the high thermal conductivity of the moist tobacco within, the application of heat is not likely to require more than about 3 hours. More preferably, the time required is about 3 minutes to 2 hours. Due to the small container size and high thermal conductivity of the moist tobacco product, the time needed to sterilize the tobacco can be carried out quickly and efficiently.

Once the thermal stabilization is completed, the tobacco container is cooled. Preferably, the container is cooled to ambient. In an embodiment, the container is cooled to about 50° F. to 90° F. Preferably, refrigeration is unnecessary.

Preferably, the stabilization treatment will kill at least 50% of the microorganisms present in the moist tobacco. More preferably, 100% of the microorganisms are destroyed so that the moist tobacco product is aseptic.

In an embodiment, the bacteria level after treatment is no greater than that necessary to achieve a 12 month shelf-life. More preferably, the bacteria level is produced to provide a shelf-life of between about 12 and 18 months. Preferably, the thermal stabilization treatment will increase shelf life by at least about 6 weeks.

Thus, the concentration of bacteria is substantially reduced or eliminated without appreciably lowering the moisture level.

While the present invention has been described in detail, it should be understood that various modifications could be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.