Putting Pressure on Food


The food industry has embraced high-pressure processing (HPP) as a food safety technology. HPP may also help satisfy consumer demand for clean-label products that are safe, nutritious, and don’t include synthetic chemicals.

Raw foods sourced from plants and animals start to spoil immediately upon harvest in response to a variety of microbiological, physical, and biochemical reactions. To extend product shelf life and deliver wholesome products to consumers, processors traditionally heat-treat food. Heat treatment helps to eradicate disease-causing pathogenic bacteria, as well as inactivate microorganisms and enzymes that cause spoilage. However, prolonged exposure to heat during processing can diminish product quality and destroy heat-sensitive nutrients.

To overcome these negative consequences, engineers and scientists are looking for viable alternatives to heat treatment. Food irradiation is one such technological solution that was developed in the 1960s, but lukewarm consumer acceptance for irradiated products has hindered its application. Other nonthermal lethal agents, such as high pressure, electric field, ultrasound, ultraviolet radiation, gases, and cold plasma, also have potential (1).

This article highlights high-pressure processing (HPP) technologies for eradicating pathogenic bacteria and inactivating spoilage microorganisms and enzymes in food manufacturing applications, while maintaining product quality (Table 1).

Table 1. Food manufacturers can leverage high-pressure processing (HPP) to slow food spoilage, eradicate pathogens, produce clean-label products, and more.
  Benefit Description
Improve Food Safety Kills a variety of vegetative forms of pathogenic and spoilage organisms
Reduce Processing Minimizes or eliminates thermal exposure
Produce Clean-Label Products Eliminates the need for synthetic preservatives
Reduce Treatment Times Efficiently applies uniform pressure independent of product shape and size
Retain Nutrients Preserves heat-sensitive nutrients
Reduce Waste Extends shelf life by about 1.5–2 times that of conventional products
Enhance Nutrient Density Fortifies foods through nutrient infusion
Reduce Labeling Does not require technology-specific labeling
Broadly Applicable Can be applied to a variety of liquids and solids

Author Bios: 

V.M. (Bala) Balasubramaniam

V.M. (Bala) Balasubramaniam, is a Professor of Food Engineering at The Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus, OH. Bala received B.S. in Agricultural Engineering at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India, M.S. in Post-harvest Technology from Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand and PhD in Food Engineering from The Ohio State University.

Prior joining OSU as a faculty member in 2002, Dr. Bala was working as a post-doctoral associate at University of Georgia Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement, Griffin, GA (1994-95) and Associate Research Professor at IIT National...Read more

Nitin Nitin

Dr. Nitin is interested in using a combination of interdisciplinary approaches encompassing biomolecular engineering, mathematical modeling, material science and molecular imaging to study the following key research areas.Read more

Kathiravan Krishnamurthy

Kathiravan is an assistant professor of food science and nutrition at the Illinois Institute of technology. Kathiravan has experience in nonthermal food processes, pulsed light processing and modeling and simulation.Read more

Alifdalino Sulaiman

Alifdalino Sulaiman, PhD, is a faculty member in the Dept. of Food and Process Engineering at the Univ. Putra Malaysia, Serdang, and is currently a visiting scholar at the Dept. of Food Science and Technology at the Ohio State Univ. His research focuses on innovative thermal and nonthermal processing of food. He obtained his PhD in chemical and materials engineering with a focus on food engineering from the Univ. of Auckland, New Zealand.Read more

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