Hydrodynamic Pressure Process May Make Meat
Safer By Sharon
December 7, 2000
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7--A process to make ground meat more
tender may also make it safer to eat, Agricultural Research Service Administrator
Floyd Horn announced today.
In the process, called the Hydrodynamic Pressure Process (HDP),
ARS scientists place meat in a container of water, then detonate a small amount
of explosives that create a shock wave in the water. The shock wave tenderizes
meat by severing the stringy striations that can make meat tough.
The scientists initially used this process to tenderize
meats, but in new studies have found that it also reduces foodborne pathogens
in meat, Horn said. A treatment such as HDP would certainly be a
boost for food safety in this country and good news for consumers.
Escherichia coli and other pathogens can live and grow in
ground meat, causing illness if the meat is improperly handled. But concerns
about meat being contaminated with dangerous pathogens may be relieved by
Scientists conducted additional studies with a technologically
superior mechanism to refine the process. Surprisingly, the advanced
mechanism--a metal, thick-walled tank (called the mini-tank) imbedded in the
ground--did not tenderize meat as well. But the scientists found an added
benefit: There seemed to be fewer bacteria on the meat than before.
Scientists had already proven that HDP penetrated throughout
whole cuts of meat, making them more tender. At that point, they wanted to see
if bacteria were reduced throughout ground meats as well.
Studies were conducted to determine the effect of HDP on
naturally occurring spoilage or shelf-life bacteria found in ground beef. The
studies showed a three-log reduction in shelf-life bacteria. This
would be similar to reducing 30,000 colony-forming units (cfus) to 30
cfus. A five-log reduction is the gold standard for bacterial
reduction, so studies are ongoing to further reduce bacterial levels.
Additional studies were performed to determine the effect HDP
has on E. coli 0157:H7 in fresh ground beef, again with encouraging
results. Ground beef that had been seeded with E.coli 0157:H7 had no
detectable levels of the dangerous organism after HDP treatment.
HDP doesnt kill all bacteria, but this may be a good
thing, said ARS meat science researcher Morse Solomon.
Lactobacilli, which are good bacteria, remain. HDP seems to
inactivate most meat pathogens, such as E. coli.
Further studies are necessary to determine if HDP can be put to
practical use in a commercial setting. HDP can penetrate through a
product, reducing or eliminating pathogens throughout ground meat, said
Solomon. The ability to treat packaged meats may substantially reduce
health risks in the future.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.
Scientific contact: Morse Solomon, ARS
Food Technology and
Safety, Beltsville, Md, phone (301) 504-8463, fax (301) 504-8438