KENT, WASHINGTON — Avure Technologies Inc., Kent, Washington, is launching on Feb. 9 its new Avure QFP 100-L 600 — a smaller footprint, horizontal High Pressure Processing (HPP) system designed for small, medium-sized and seasonal food processors. HPP is a post-packaging lethality treatment that inactivates foodborne pathogens and spoilage mechanisms in ready-to-eat (RTE) meats and other food products.
“HPP destroys the pathogen’s cellular structure, which inhibits its ability to heal itself and reproduce. The pathogen then dies over the course of 24 hours without rebound,” says Glenn Hewson, global vice-president.

Avure-brand HPP equipment treats $2 billion worth of food products globally. The company estimates between 35 percent and 40 percent of HPP use worldwide is for meat and poultry applications.

How the process works

In 99 percent of applications, treated product is in final packaged form. Products are first placed in a basket that moves into a pressure vessel. The pressure vessel is then closed and filled with water. Next, a low-pressure pump increases the pressure in the vessel using water. If using a modified atmosphere packaging application, it will run it up to a point where the gas is compressed in that application as well. From there, an intensifier pump kicks in. Typical applications in the meat industry are at 87,000 PSI or 6,000 bar (a measure of pressure).

The QFP 100-L 600 is designed for RTE processors of chicken strips, roasters, RTE sliced red meats, whole-muscle meats, cured meats and artisan hams.

“I have seen experiments around both raw and pre-cooked products, for example, pre-cooked steak in the refrigerated meat case,” Hewson says.

Meat processors can use the same packaging materials in the HPP process as they traditionally use, Hewson says.

Three major benefits of HPP over competing food-safety technologies are: it inactivates the pathogen (including Listeria (3.5 log reduction), E. coli and Salmonella, (5-log reductions) and spoilage organisms, including yeast and molds, Avure says. It also eliminates or greatly reduces the need for chemical additives or preservatives, which allows processors to create clean-label products. HPP also doubles or more the shelf-life compared to meat incorporating chemical preservatives, Hewson says. “It’s a termination step, not a preservative step,” he adds.

The most important feature of the Avure QFP 100-L 600 is its lower cost in comparison to its larger counterparts. At just under $1 million, the company hopes to make the technology available to a wider swath of processors, says Jerry Toops, business unit manager of Avure’s specialty systems.

“This press will operate about 9.2 cycles per hr. and produce about 28,000 lbs. of typical meat products in a 20-hour workday,” he adds.

Features of the new press include a 12.1-inch diameter chamber, which allows processors to efficiently load the press with almost any type of meat package or package geometry. The press is skid-mounted for easy installation. System components are on the skid, wires run through the frame and cable trays so the unit can be moved around a facility easier than most food processing equipment. It also doesn’t require grouting to the floor.

“And its main high-pressure container is a wire-wound and pre-stressed pressure vessel, which is recognized as the safest way to contain high pressure,” Toops says.

ROI depends primarily on how much product is run, but this post-packaging step will add just pennies a pound. “In the 100 liter, it’s about 6 cents a pound to the product being produced,” Toops says. “In the larger systems, it is less than that.”

“Typically in a meat application, our design goal was to have a two-year payback time frame,” Hewson adds.
HPP is a post-package step that can be seamlessly implemented in RTE meat production. “Typically you see the technology in the plant after product has been through the slicer, after it’s packaged....the next step is to put it into HPP. The last step is packoff,” Hewson says.

The main module of the 100 liter is about 14 ft. long by 8 ½ ft. wide and 6 ft. tall. A secondary pump module, the high-pressure pump, is about 5 ft wide by 7 ft. long; it’s typically placed behind the main press. Some meat plants have installed HPP equipment in a mezzanine-type arrangement above the press to save more floor space.

Toops says although the new 100-liter system was primarily made for small processors and seasonal companies, Avure sees another market for its new 100 liter model: as an offload press for larger processors or for a new product line that larger processors may want to start out with.

“We also encourage co-processors to use HPP,” Hewson adds.

A growing technology

An increasing number of meat and poultry companies are adopting HPP technology. Hormel’s Natural Choice sliced product line has increased its shelf-life to more than 100 days using HPP. Maple Lodge Farms, a poultry processor based in Brampton, Ontario, launched its SafeSure High Pressure Processing System last April. It was the first poultry processor in Canada to invest in this technology for its deli products.

HPP allows Maple Lodge Farms to control pathogens such as Listeria, without affecting taste. It also extends the shelf-life of its products exponentially, the company says.

“Once we started to investigate the technology and realized the other benefits in addition to extending shelf-life – the reduced reliance on chemical preservatives to keep foods microbiologically safe and the extension of quality over the shelf-life [including the retention of taste and texture] – we were convinced this was a wise investment,” says Carol Gardin, marketing and communications manager with Maple Lodge Farms. “We chose Avure specifically for the efficient throughput of their machines as well as their superior scientific/development support.”

Avure sells HPP systems and offers service on five continents. “We built a level of parts and service staff to help our customers,” Hewson says.

Avure also maintains a food lab designed to test the HPP process and experiment with various packaging formats. The lab also allows customers to achieve regulatory approval before exporting products to new countries. “We do that by working with several food labs around the world where we have a very tight partnership,” Hewson says.

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