A new food processing technique could result in food products with better characteristics and an extended shelf life, researchers believe.

The technique incorporates High Pressure Processing (HPP) or Pascalization, a century-old method of food preservation which uses very high pressure to render inactive certain microorganisms (such as yeast, mould and bacteria) and enzymes in the food.

A new version of HPP, called High Hydrostatic Pressure in combination with Temperature (HPT), adds a heating stage to the high pressure processing.

According to youris.com, a media center for European research innovation, the combination of a preheating stage and high pressure is expected to sterilise food products and ensure greater food safety, freshness and nutritional quality, while extending shelf life. HPT also offers environmental benefits thanks to its low energy costs and reduced water consumption.

“After HPP most of the enzymes are intact, which means the color and texture (and also flavor) are not stable during chilled shelf life. On the other hand, after HPT treatment the enzymes are mostly rendered inactive, resulting in a stable color and texture during the ambient shelf life,” explained Dennis Favier, creative director of innovation company TOP B.V. in the Netherlands.

“Another important difference is food safety of non-acidic products, like vegetables or meat,” Favier continued. “Due to bacterial spores, non-acid food is not safe after HPP treatment. On the contrary, by applying HPT the spores are killed, which makes the products sterile and thus safe for a long period.”

Favier said that he expects this new technology to become more widely used than HPP, as it can be applied to more food types.