Consumers demand healthier fresh tasting foods without chemical preservatives. To address the need, food industry is exploring alternative preservation methods such as high pressure processing (HPP) and pulsed electric field processing. During HPP, the food material is subjected to elevated pressures (up to 900 MPa) with or without the addition of heat to achieve microbial inactivation with minimal damage to the food. One of the unique advantages of the technology is the ability to increase the temperature of the food samples instantaneously; this is attributed to the heat of compression, resulting from the rapid pressurization of the sample. Pulsed electric field (PEF) processing uses short bursts of electricity for microbial inactivation and causes minimal or no detrimental effect on food quality attributes. The process involves treating foods placed between electrodes by high voltage pulses in the order of 20–80 kV (usually for a couple of microseconds). PEF processing offers high quality fresh-like liquid foods with excellent flavor, nutritional value, and shelf life. Pressure in combination with other antimicrobial agents, including CO2, has been investigated for juice processing. Both HPP and PEF are quite effective in inactivating harmful pathogens and vegetative bacteria at ambient temperatures.
Both HPP and PEF do not present any unique issues for food processors concerning regulatory matters or labeling. The requirements are similar to traditional thermal pasteurization such as development of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for juices and beverages.
Examples of high pressure, pasteurized, value added products commercially available in the United States include smoothies, fruit juices, guacamole, ready meal components, oysters, ham, poultry products, and salsa. PEF technology is not yet widely utilized for commercial processing of food products in the United States. The presentation will provide a brief overview of HPP and PEF technology fundamentals, equipment choices for food processors, process economics, and commercialization status in the food industry, with emphasis on juice processing.
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