High-pressure processing (HPP) equipment is being made available to Canadian processors to find out whether the treatment method is right for their foods.
The Alberta government announced Friday that its Food Processing Development Centre at Leduc, just south of Edmonton, is now home to the only publicly accessible, commercial-scale HPP machine in the country.
The centre is developing an HPP program to help food companies in research, development and commercialization in the areas of fruits and vegetables, cereals and grains, and meat products.
It’s estimated that just over 100 commercial HPP units are now operating in North America and Europe, the province noted. The process is approved in Canada for use in ready-to-eat meats and meals as well as applesauce.
Maple Lodge Farms of Brampton, Ont. announced in April that it was the first poultry packer in Canada to invest in the technology.
Having the equipment at Leduc allows companies to evaluate HPP without buying their own “very expensive” machines, the province said. The centre can thus perform research and development, market trials, or a “full spectrum technology evaluation” for companies to justify whether to adopt or invest in their own HPP systems.
Canadian agri-food companies will be able to try HPP at Leduc for a “nominal service fee,” the province said.
HPP applies extremely high pressures, without heat, to food products. As in canning and pasteurization, HPP increases food safety by inactivating bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria.
In HPP, however, “the fresh appearance, flavour, textural attributes and nutrient content of food products are maintained because heat is not used,” the province said. HPP can also be carried out on the final packaged product, which cuts risk of potential contamination.
In the process, food products are loaded into a high-pressure vessel that’s filled with water to reach pressures up to 87,000 pounds per square inch. After two to five minutes, the vessel is depressurized and the products are unloaded.
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development “wants to make this technology readily available to the processing industry and to become a leading expert in this new and exciting method of processing,” the province said.
“Food safety has always been a priority for industry and having this technology available to Alberta processors will only help to further enhance our strong food safety reputation,” Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld said in Friday’s release.