Best Practices

How to improve the quality of raw products with HPP

By Tatiana Koutchma, Ph.D. on 11/23/2015

Despite the grown popularity of raw food diets and increased demand, there is a health risk of food poisoning associated with food borne illnesses – especially for raw meats, poultry, milk and shellfish. The terms “raw” and "fresh" when used on the label or in labeling of a food suggests or implies that the food itself and all ingredients are unprocessed, meaning that the food is in its natural untreated state and has not been frozen or subjected to any form of thermal processing or any other form of preservation.

Because of its non-thermal character, high-pressure processing (HPP) technology’s uses have extended beyond ready-to-eat (RTE) meats and meals to fresh and raw food products of plant origin such as guacamole, tomato salsa, orange juice, but also to meat and poultry products.

This artcle is focused on how non-thermal advantage of HPP technology can improve the safety and quality attributes of different categories of raw or uncooked meats.

Wide variety of meat applications

As a non-thermal technology, HPP can be used for raw meat, whether ground, sliced or whole pieces, with longer shelf-life improved food safety. The typical pressure range used it is between 200 MPa (29,000 psi) and 600 MPa (87,000 psi) applied at refrigerated temperature.

There are three main applications for raw meats:

  1. Improving safety and shelf-life. High pressure is applied on the final package, so recontamination after processing is avoided. The pressure range is from 400 MPa (58,000 psi) to 600 MPa (87,000 psi) to inactivate spoilage vegetative microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts and molds) as well as pathogens.
  2. Meat tenderization with pressures in the range of 200 MPa (29,000 psi) to 400 MPa (58,000psi) for improving texture and organoleptic characteristics on raw pieces.
  3. Reducing cooking losses by applying pressures from 200 MPa (29,000 psi) to 400 MPa (58,000psi) to enhance meat binding.

In Canada, the use of HPP is approved to treat raw ground beef for the purpose of extending the refrigerated shelf-life of the product and to inactivate Escherichia coli O157:H7. Raw ground beef, with a protein, is packaged in chub or patty format (patties vertically stacked in packaging) and is held at 87,000 psi/600 MPa during a one-minute holding time.

The HPP-treated product still requires refrigeration post-treatment and should be cooked properly (like its untreated equivalent) prior to consumption. This product is specifically intended for the food service industry and is not available for direct purchase by retail consumers.

The assessment conducted by the Food Directorate considered the intended addition of an HPP treatment to the current manufacturing process, the nutritional composition of both HPP-treated and untreated product, the potential for the HPP treatment to generate any toxic compounds within the product and the microbiological safety of the finished HPP-treated product.

The efficacy of the HPP treatment to inactivate E. coli O157:H7 cells was evaluated in raw ground beef. The resulting data demonstrates that raw ground beef treated at 87,000 psi/600 MPa for a minimum of one minute up to a maximum of three minutes is as safe as the equivalent untreated product.

Its use on raw poultry

Salmonella contamination in poultry meat is a global concern. HPP technology has demonstrated to be one of the suitable technologies for inactivating this pathogen in various systems. Pressure level, treatment time and temperature have a significant impact on inactivation of salmonella in raw chicken meat.

However, pressures higher than 400 MPa can lead to denaturation of proteins responsible for color and texture. Changes in color may result in a white or opaque appearance and increase in hardness. However, due to lower content of myoglobin in poultry than in beef or pork, the effect of pressure is not as pronounced.

Still, there were no significant changes in meat color after cooking HPP-treated poultry compared to cooked non-HPP-treated product. HPP also induces changes in aroma profile of chicken meat by delaying the development of volatile nitrogen compounds and leading to improved freshness.

In the United States, HPP is approved by FSIS as a preventive measure to control levels of salmonella on raw meat or poultry. Cargill reported that it had implemented HPP to reduce salmonella in its ground turkey. However, if the required HPP processing conditions are intense for controlling salmonella, HPP may induce changes in sensory attributes, mainly those related to product appearance.

The other sensory attributes and the overall sensory quality are slightly or not affected by HPP. Adaptation of HPP for marinated meat and poultry has a potential to avoid discoloration and extend shelf-life for more than 30 days.


In addition to RTE foods application, HPP can provide a processing solution for today’s market demand for more natural foods that can be consumed fresh and raw by adding to their healthy attributes additional level of safety protection.

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