Food waste: the pressure is on
In Germany, a whopping 55 kilograms of food per person end up in the garbage can instead of on the table every year. In more than half of these cases, this is due to shelf-life problems. How can we ensure that our food stays fresh longer? The answer: with the so-called HPP process. It is working flat out to fight food waste.
It is well known that our steel sector is one of the three largest producers of packaging steel in Europe and that our materials division offers a wide range of materials for use in machines for food production. What might be news, though, is that our colleagues in plant construction have developed a high-pressure process that makes food more durable.
Our HPP process – gentle food preservation
This procedure deals with a very acute problem. According to the Federal Statistical Office, every German throws away 55 kilograms of food per year. Worldwide, this is 1.6 billion tons annually, the Boston Consulting Group states in its “Food Waste Report.” By 2030 this figure could even rise to 2.1 billion tons.
In Germany, shelf life is the most common reason why food ends up in the bin. A total of 58 percent of the food thrown away is no longer durable. This is exactly where the HPP process comes into play – by ensuring that food has a longer shelf life through high pressure.
Pathogens and spoilage microorganisms don’t stand a chance
“High-pressure processing is a non-thermal process for preserving food without chemicals or heat,” says Jasna Ivanovic, one of the experts in Hagen, Germany, who is working intensively on this process. This is how it works: The products are transported in their final packaging in special baskets into the high-pressure vessel which is filled with water. High-pressure pumps then increase the pressure to 6,000 bar.
By way of comparison, this pressure corresponds to roughly the force that three jumbo jets would exert on the surface of a smartphone. As water is used to transmit this pressure evenly through the product, the product itself cannot be harmed. After a few minutes, the pressure is lowered again – and the pasteurized product is ready for use.
“High pressure ensures inactivation of pathogens and spoilage microorganisms in the food at room temperature,” explains Jasna Ivanovic. “At the same time, the non-thermal treatment helps to preserve the fresh and original taste as well as the nutrients of the food. It is important that the food packaging is waterproof and flexible. It must withstand a volume reduction of about 15% during the process.”
Food can be stored for up to ten times longer
Meat products, fish and seafood, dairy products, sauces, dips, ready-to-eat meals, juices, baby food, pet food – the list of products for which the HPP process can be used is long. By extending the shelf life of food, up to ten times less food should be thrown away.
No need to waste food!
“Almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced in Europe are not consumed,” explains Jasna Ivanovic. This number can be rapidly reduced thanks to the HPP process. It not only stops pathogens and bacteria, but also prevents the activity of enzymes. This keeps the fruit from turning brown.
The texture and appearance are preserved, as well as the nutrients in our food, and the taste is great – who would want to throw away food instead of eating it?
For more information about thyssenkrupp’s HPP solution, visit our website: https://www.thyssenkrupp-industrial-solutions.com/high-pressure-processing/en