With regard to the large-scale application of high pressure technology in the food industry, a problem still to be solved today is the improvement of the economic feasibility, i.e. the high investment cost mainly associated with the high capital cost for a commercial high pressure system. The cost of a vessel is determined by the required working pressure/temperature and volume. Furthermore, once technically and economically feasible processes have been identified, one needs to evaluate whether the unique properties of the food justify the additional cost and to what extent consumers are willing to pay a higher price for a premium quality product.
High pressure technology is unlikely to replace conventional thermal processing, because the second technique is a well-established and relatively cheap food preservation method. Currently, the reported cost range of high pressure processes is 0.1-0.2$ per litre (Grant et al, 2000) whereas the cost for thermal treatment may be as low as 0.02-0.04 $ per litre. However, the technology offers commercially feasible alternatives for conventional heating in the case of novel food products with improved functional properties which cannot be attained by conventional heating.
Today, several commercial high pressure food products are available in Japan, Europe and the United States. A Japanese company, Meidi-Ya, introduced the first commercial pressure treated product (a fruit-based jam) on the market in April 1990, followed in 1991 by a wide variety of pressure-processed fruit yoghurts, fruit jellies, fruit sauces, savoury rice products, dessert and salad dressings (Mertens and Deplace, 1993). Recently, there were more than 10 pressure treated food products available in Japan. In Europe, fruit juice was the first commercially available high pressure product in France followed by a pressurised delicatessen style ham in Spain and pressurised orange juice in the United Kingdom. In the United States, high pressure treated guacamole has been launched on the commercial market. In addition, pressure treated oysters and hummus are commercially available. A list of commercially available pressurised food products in Japan, Europe and the United States in the last decade is summarised in Table 21.1.
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