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Procesado para la conservación de alimentos

Control of foodborne viruses with High Pressure Processing

On December, 2019 a novel coronavirus was discovered as the cause of several pneumonia cases in China. This virus quickly spread around the world and at the moment Coronavirus disease 2019 is now a global pandemic. The world is deeply concerned about this outbreak. Even though this topic lacks information, no evidences have shown that food is a transmission route, and also throughout this article we present different studies suggesting that High Pressure Processing is effective inactivating foodborne viruses.

Foodborne viruses

Viruses are small biological agents that represent a major concern for public health. They are obligate intracellular parasites, which means that, unlike bacteria, they can only replicate inside the living cells of a susceptible host and cannot multiply in foods outside a living host, therefore they do not amplify in food or water. Although viruses are mostly transmitted via person-to-person contact, foodborne virus can transmitted through food and water. Some of the more important foodborne viruses include the human noroviruses, hepatitis A virus, hepatitis E virus, rotavirus and Aichi virus.

The European Food Information Council suggests some measures to prevent viral foodborne illness, for instance, training personnel in good hygiene practices, such as hand washing and proper handling of food products.

High Pressure Processing (HPP) increases food safety by inactivating pathogenic bacteria and parasites. Furthermore, HPP can be used as a measure to control foodborne viruses, as, comparatively to bacteria, viruses are relatively sensitive to pressure. For instance, there are reports showing that HPP, in the range of 3000 – 5000 bar, can control foodborne viruses related to gastrointestinal diseases such as hepatitis and norovirus.

Coronaviruses Family

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for the coronavirus disease COVID-19. They are enveloped viruses with a more or less spherical structure. The viral envelope is made of a lipid bilayer, to which glycoproteins are anchored. Inside the envelope is a core that consists of protein matrix within which is a single strand of RNA.

Coronavirus is a new strain that was discovered in 2019, so far there are more than 168.000 confirmed cases around the world. This virus is responsible for acute respiratory disease. Milder symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, myalgia and fatigue. This respiratory illness quickly spreads from person to person.

Can coronavirus be transmitted by food?

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and an article in the Food Safety Magazine, there is no evidence that food is a source or transmission route for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Regarding food packaging there is also no evidence that can be associated with transmission of COVID-19, any commercial good that has been moved is exposed to different conditions and temperatures. Thus, the likelihood of an infected person contaminating a commercial good is low.

In addition, there is no evidence that food packaging is being associated with transmission of COVID-19. It is possible that the viruses survive on surfaces or objects, but only for a period of 12 hours.

Still, some preventive measures are recommended. Good manufacturing practices (GMP) are the first barrier against possible contamination. Also, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shares these 4 key steps of food safety to help manufacters. For instance, personnel must have good hygiene practices, employees with symptoms should be restricted from food service work, especially where the food is handled or with surfaces in direct contact with the food.

Can HPP technology inactivate Coronavirus?

Unfortunately this particular virus is new and research about it is still scarce, even more with HPP. Still, it is known that HPP effectively inactivates a variety of enveloped viruses such as avian influenza virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, human cytomegalovirus, vesicular stomatitis virus, and avian metapneumovirus. For instance, there is a study showing that HPP can control the Avian influenza virus from 4500 bar.

However, despite HPP being an effective, promising, and practical nonthermal technology for inactivating viruses, this does not mean that the same will happen with SARS-CoV-2, but it surely helps to minimize the risk.

Hiperbaric guarantees service and supply of customers in the food industry

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic reinforces Hiperbaric’s commitment with their customers, and their social responsibility to help with the continuous supply of food in this critical situation. “Employee safety and customer support are our priority. Our customers are food companies that continue to produce staple foods. Hiperbaric guarantees to continue providing customers with the technical support and supplies needed to keep food production running”, stressed Andrés Hernando, Hiperbaric CEO.

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