Novel Ultra High-Pressure, Intense Shear System Aims To Improve Food Quality And Safety

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Pressure BioSciences Inc. PBIO (PBI) has been a leader in the pressure-based technology market for many years, mainly servicing medical and life science companies, academic laboratories, and government organizations. Now the company wants to break into the High-Pressure Processing (HPP) food arena with a system that they believe offers significant advantages over systems currently being used in the $14 billion HPP market.  Named the Ultra Shear Technology (UST) platform, UST systems combine ultra-high pressure with intense shearing to produce long-term stable, highly water soluble, and exquisitely bioavailable nanoemulsions of oils in water. This innovative processing system is currently in its last stage of development, and is expected to be commercially released by PBI later this year. 

The high-pressure processing (HPP) food market is a $14 billion market that encompasses the technology used to sanitize, pasteurize or otherwise improve the safety and quality of food and beverages. 

How Does Traditional High-Pressure Processing Work?

HPP involves using ultra high pressure to reduce the level of microorganisms in liquid foods and beverages; such pathogens could be harmful - even deadly - to people if ingested. By applying uniform pressure to the entire item, HPP pasteurization systems offered by industry players like JBT Avure Technologies JBT, Thyssenkrupp ADR TKAMY, and Hyperbaric are able to destroy food-borne pathogens and inactivate deleterious enzymes without harming the food itself.  

Before HPP came on the scene, sanitizing food required either high heat or strong chemical preservatives. Both of these worked in terms of killing off harmful pathogens, but they would also adversely impact the flavor, texture, color, and nutritive value of the food. Even less desirable, they could also end up destroying certain nutrients — especially Vitamin C and other antioxidants that break down in heat, reducing the nutritional value of the food.

HPP, on the other hand, doesn’t change the texture or flavor of the food itself as much as heat or chemicals do. Plus, using pressure instead of heat also helps preserve the nutrient profile since it doesn’t break down vitamins, antioxidants, or other micronutrients in the way that high heat does. 

UST also allows manufacturers to achieve longer shelf life without relying on chemical preservatives — and in a market where consumers are increasingly seeking “clean label” foods and are generally more wary of any kind of additives, HPP makes it possible to appeal to evolving consumer demands.

Despite its benefits, existing HPP methods can’t overcome a key problem that liquid food and beverage manufacturers face: preventing emulsions from separating. With many foods, especially those that combine oil with water, the liquids don’t want to stay mixed as the product sits on the shelf, so the oil tends to separate and rise to the top.

Some manufacturers deal with this by using hydrogenated fats to create foods that won’t separate, but these processed fats are associated with a possible increased risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke. When manufacturers skip the hydrogenated fats and just let separation happen, the desired health benefits of the food is often significantly reduced, since the human body struggles to absorb oil-based nutrients. 

How Does Pressure BioSciences’ UST Platform Overcome the HPP Shortcomings?

The UST Platform is a pressure-based system that might finally solve the problem of separation in emulsions, without using chemical processing like hydrogenation.

Where existing HPP technology relies on pressure alone, the UST platform combines ultra-high pressure levels with a patented NanoGap valve that controls flow rates in a novel way for better dispersion.  Adding this NanoGap valve-related shear technology (or the ability to physically break apart and disperse the oil drops) is a game-changer. 

The unique design of the NanoGap valve makes it possible to produce nanoemulsions where oil drops are broken down into tiny oil droplets that are so small they can’t easily recombine, which makes the resulting nanoemulsion more shelf-stable, meaning manufacturers can ship products worldwide without worrying about separation or quality degradation. In addition to being significantly more stable, the resulting nanoemulsions offer the additional advantage that the active oil-based ingredient is likely to be more bioavailable, meaning the body absorbs more of the oil-based active ingredient.  

Not only could the UST process make it possible to eliminate hydrogenated fats from store shelves, but it may also make previously difficult-to-absorb supplements like CBD oil or the powerful antioxidant Astaxanthin easier to infuse into beverages and liquid foods.  Importantly, the UST platform can also scale to very large manufacturing levels.

Essentially, UST-derived nanoemulsions not only protect against nutrient loss by significantly reducing exposure to heat, but they can also improve the bioavailability of those oil-based nutrients while reducing manufacturers’ dependence on chemical additives and chemical processing that often increase the cost of production while resulting in adverse health effects.

To make the UST platform more widely available in the food and beverage space, PBI partnered with The Ohio State University (OSU) to develop a commercial-scale model of the UST technology. Now on display at the world-renowned Advanced Food Technology Pilot Plant at Ohio State, the model system will soon be available to provide live demonstrations of the nanoemulsification process for industry companies from around the world. 

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be investing advice.

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