Whenever food, in any form, is handled, processed, packaged and stored, there will always be an inherent generation of wastewater. The quantity of processing wastewater that is generated and its general quality (i.e. pollutant strength, nature of constituents), has both economic and environmental consequences with respect to its treatment and disposal.

In fact, the cost for treating the wastewater lies in its specific characteristics and the requested standards for discharging. The pretreatment of food processing wastewaters is commonly associated with discharges to sewers and thus to a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) but sometimes treated waters are discharged to water bodies thus requiring that very high standards are met. Further, treated water can be directly reused within the food processing industry. When considering the discharging of food processing wastewaters, the degree of pretreatment required is determined by the specified discharge limitations defined in the municipal ordinances for discharging to sewers. Generally, the limitations focus on wastewater characteristics that are historically responsible for detrimental influences on the WWTP operation and pollutant-removal efficiencies. These are generally macropollutants, like chemical oxygen demand (COD), biological oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS), nutrients, etc. However, food processing wastewaters generally contain considerable amounts of other pollutants like greases, oils, proteins and salts. In addition, some specific micropollutants like pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals can be present.

This chapter deals with the application of different processes for treatment of wastewaters produced in the food industry. The first part of the chapter is devoted to the illustration of characteristics and flows coming from food processing, then the typical processes for pollutant removal and their yields are presented; the final part of the chapter presents the most innovative processes for wastewater treatment and for recovery of valuable products from these wastes.

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