Formation risk of toxic and other unwanted compounds in pressure-assisted thermally processed foods
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Consumers demand, in addition to excellent eating quality, high standards of microbial and chemical safety in shelf-stable foods. This requires improving conventional processing technologies and developing new alternatives such as pressure-assisted thermal processing (PATP). Studies in PATP foods on the kinetics of chemical reactions at temperatures (approximately 100 to 120 °C) inactivating bacterial spores in low-acid foods are severely lacking. This review focuses on a specific chemical safety risk in PATP foods: models predicting if the activation volume value (V a) of a chemical reaction is positive or negative, and indicating if the reaction rate constant will decrease or increase with pressure, respectively, are not available. Therefore, the pressure effect on reactions producing toxic compounds must be determined experimentally. A recent model solution study showed that acrylamide formation, a potential risk in PATP foods, is actually inhibited by pressure (that is, itsV avalue must be positive). This favorable finding was not predictable and still needs to be confirmed in food systems. Similar studies are required for other reactions producing toxic compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, N-nitroso compounds, and hormone like-peptides. Studies on PATP inactivation of prions, and screening methods to detect the presence of other toxicity risks of PATP foods, are also reviewed. © 2011 Institute of Food Technologists ®.