Aspects of high hydrostatic pressure food processing: Perspectives on technology and food safety
The last two decades saw a steady increase of high hydrostatic pressure (HHP) used for treatment of foods. Although the science of biomaterials exposed to high pressure started more than a century ago, there still seem to be a number of unanswered questions regarding safety of foods processed using HHP. This review gives an overview on historical development and fundamental aspects of HHP, as well as on potential risks associated with HHP food applications based on available literature. Beside the combination of pressure and temperature, as major factors impacting inactivation of vegetative bacterial cells, bacterial endospores, viruses, and parasites, factors, such as food matrix, water content, presence of dissolved substances, and pH value, also have significant influence on their inactivation by pressure. As a result, pressure treatment of foods should be considered for specific food groups and in accordance with their specific chemical and physical properties. The pressure necessary for inactivation of viruses is in many instances slightly lower than that for vegetative bacterial cells; however, data for food relevant human virus types are missing due to the lack of methods for determining their infectivity. Parasites can be inactivated by comparatively lower pressure than vegetative bacterial cells. The degrees to which chemical reactions progress under pressure treatments are different to those of conventional thermal processes, for example, HHP leads to lower amounts of acrylamide and furan. Additionally, the formation of new unknown or unexpected substances has not yet been observed. To date, no safety-relevant chemical changes have been described for foods treated by HHP. Based on existing sensitization to non-HHP-treated food, the allergenic potential of HHP-treated food is more likely to be equivalent to untreated food. Initial findings on changes in packaging materials under HHP have not yet been adequately supported by scientific data.