HPP update

HPP update: Preserving fresh food longer without chemicals

Food technology innovators worldwide are busy creating potential solutions to tomorrow’s food supply challenges. The FutureFood 2050 series, an initiative supported by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), takes a look at the work of Carole Tonello, an industrial researcher working on high pressure processing (HPP) advancements to boost the shelf life of food without chemical preservatives.

HPP uses intense pressure at chilled or mild temperatures to preserve food with minimal changes, HPP was developed commercially in the 1990s but is still in its infancy.

At Hiperbaric—a Spain-based designer, manufacturer, and marketer of HPP industrial equipment—Tonello is working to improve the technology with the aim of reducing costs and making HPP more productive and affordable. That way, HPP food products can be priced comparably with chemically and thermally processed foods.

Cold pasteurization technique is on a fast track, says Tonello, because it can boost the shelf life of food products without chemical preservatives while retaining more flavour, nutrients and freshness.

Already more than 300 HPP machines are being used in commercial production at 200 companies around the world, processing an estimated 1 billion pounds of food annually, according to Visiongain, a UK business intelligence provider. Avocado products, vegetable and fruit juices, tomato salsa, seafood, meat and salami are among the HPP products now available.

Preservation under pressure

The HPP process begins with fresh food that has been sealed in flexible, water-resistant packaging and placed in a high-pressure chamber filled with water.

“Then a pressure intensifier increases the pressure in the chamber, submitting the food inside the package to about 58,000 to 87,000 psi [pounds per square inch] for a few minutes,” says Tonello, equivalent to the pressure from putting it on the bottom of an ocean 60 kilometers deep, if such an ocean depth existed.

“It is a post-packaging process, so it keeps microorganisms out, extends shelf life and inactivates pathogens while at the same time conserves all the nutrients and freshness. Pressure is a thermodynamic parameter like temperature,” she adds.

“The difference [with HPP] is that there is a very slight increase in temperature but a very large increase in pressure, so it modifies microorganisms by killing them whilst maintaining the chemical and biochemical properties of the food.”

HPP is also more environmentally friendly than thermal or chemical processing because it uses recyclable pure water as a transmission fluid, and it is a waste-free process. HPP does consume more energy, but Tonello says researchers are working on reducing the machinery’s carbon footprint.

The biologist believes that HPP will ultimately lead to better-quality products for consumers who want to eat healthier. In fact, in 10 years, Tonello predicts developed countries will all widely adopt HPP for fresher and innovative premium, raw or chemical-free products…..

FutureFood2050: Read the full article