Papain Production


Papain is a proteolytic enzyme that tenderises meat and can act as a clarifying agent in many food industry processes. It is a common ingridient in brewery and meat processing. Although synthetic substitutes are available at lower cost, the demand for papain isstill strong as a food ingridient since it is percieved as a natural product.

Investment Requirements

Investment for a papaya grower that harvests latex will be minimal: incisors, collection trays, plastic buckets, and wooden scrapers.

Production

Harvesting the Latex. The latex is collected from the oldest, yet still green, fruits. The best collection time is during the morning on misty/cloudy days or after a rain. The best seasonal time is when there are both warm temperatures and high humidity. Make three vertical incisions in the lower sections of each fruit (tap fruits layer by layer) and collect the latex in a collection bag. Trays or other containers can also be used. All equipment should be clean to prevent the contamination of the latex with foreign matter. The latex must be quickly processed or it will start to lose its enzymatic activity.

Processing. Sun drying of latex produces the lowest grade powder (cream-brown in color), with the lowest activity. To produce papain flakes, latex normally is dried in batches of at least 500 kilograms (which will produce 50 kg of flakes). First, the latex is whisked in a tank to produce a homogenous liquid. The liquid is then filtered through muslin (raw cotton) to remove waxy components. The liquid is then poured onto shallow trays which are placed in a drying house. Dry at 60oC for 3 to 4 days or until flakes are dry. Oven drying after filtration will produce a lighter color powder or flake with a higher activity level than produced by sun drying.

More advanced processing options involve spray drying. The latex is filtered and centrifuged to produce a 45% solid concentration. A white to cream coloured powder is produced with two to three times the activity levels.

The papain powder or flake may be further purified in the importing country. Papain loses its strength relatively quickly, particularly if not stored under cool conditions. A loss of enzyme activity will mean a reduction in price. Contact with air and metals should also be avoided. Therefore, papain should be sent relatively quickly to the buyer.

Time to First Harvest/Seasonality

Production of green papaya fruit starts about 10 months from transplanting . Fruit is usually tapped for latex 75 to 90 days after fruit set. An oven drying operation takes about 3 to 4 days.

Product Specifications

Papain is sold in both liquid and powdered form. It is commonly imported in a raw form and processed according to the end users’ specifications. The strength of papain is measured in Tyrosine Units (TU). According to one papain dealer in the UK, 70-75 TU liquid papain is commonly used by breweries. However, some buyers require strengths of up to 500-700 TU.

One of the biggest problems for papain buyers is low enzyme activity, usually caused by storing latex for more than a day while sufficient stock is accumulated to start processing.

Packaging

Plastic containers are normally used to pack crude papain powder/flakes, as metal containers will cause a loss of enzyme activity. If possible, flush the container with an inert gas to remove oxygen. The plastic containers are often put into a tight cardboard container. More highly purified papain may be packed in 10 kg to 50 kg fibreboard drums that have been lined with polyethylene.

Customers

Papain is purshased and distributed by specialist food ingridient companies mainly in Europe and the US and redistributed to many other countries. The number of companies involved in primary purshase is relatively small and all have their traditional sources. Before inveting in papain it is therefore essential to obtain a contract from at least one of them. Further more since quality particularly the enzyme activity of extracted papain , varies tremendously, it is essential to agree a specification on the type of papain to be supplied.

Source: ADC Commercialisation Bulletin

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