Scanning electron microscopy is a useful tool for understanding food contamination and directing product development
of food and industrial products. The current trend in food research is to produce foods that are fast to prepare and/or
ready to eat. At the same time, these processed foods must be safe, high quality and maintain all or most of the
nutritional value of the original whole foods. Minimally processed foods, is the phrase used to characterize these "new"
foods. New techniques are needed which take advantage of minimal processing or processing which enhances the fresh
properties and characteristics of whole foods while spending less time on food preparation. The added benefit coupled to
less cooking time in an individual kitchen translates to an overall energy savings and reduces the carbon emissions to the
environment. Food processing changes the microstructure, and therefore, the quality, texture and flavor, of the resulting
food product. Additionally, there is the need to reduce waste, transportation costs and product loss during transportation
and storage. Unlike food processing, structural changes are desirable in co-products as function follows form for food
packaging films and boxes as well as for building materials and other industrial products. Thus, the standard materials
testing procedures are coupled with SEM to provide direction in the development of products from agricultural residues
or what would otherwise be considered waste materials. The use of agricultural residues reduces waste and adds value to
a currently underutilized or unutilized product. The product might be biodegradable or compostable, thus reducing
landfill requirements. Manufacturing industrial and packaging products from biological materials also reduces the
amount of petroleum products currently standard in the industry.