EFSA publishes scientific opinion regarding high-pressure processing of food

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently published its scientific opinion on the efficacy and safety of high-pressure processing (HPP) of food. EFSA’s experts concluded that the HPP method is efficient at destroying harmful microorganisms and presents no additional microbial or chemical food safety concerns when compared to other treatments such as pasteurization.  

HPP is a non-thermal technique of food preservation, which uses high pressure for a certain amount of time to inactivate pathogens and microorganisms that can spoil food. The method has minimal effects on the taste, texture, appearance, or nutritional value of the food.  

HPP can be applied at various stages of the food chain, often on pre-packed products. The HPP treatment has been used on not only raw materials including milk, fruit juices, and smoothies but also on processed products, for example, sliced cooked meat and ready-to-eat meals. In the latter case, the method can help reduce the contamination originating from the manufacturing processes.  

The scientific opinion is published as a request from the European Commission. EFSA experts were asked to provide overall assessments on the safety and efficacy of reducing the levels of foodborne pathogens of the HPP method. In addition, EFSA’s opinion also addresses the efficacy of HPP as an alternative for pasteurization and ultra-high temperature treatment of raw milk and raw colostrum, as well as for controlling Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods. Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes has been a public health concern in the EU.  

EFSA concludes that this processing treatment lowers levels of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat products when specific time-pressure combinations are applied. Also, it is proved to be effective at reducing the levels of other pathogens, including Salmonella and E. coli. In general, the efficacy of the HPP method is better with longer durations and higher levels of pressure.  

Currently, HPP is not specifically regulated at the EU level. Thus, EFSA’s advice will inform the possible decisions of risk managers in this field.