High pressure pasteurizing of ground meats

Abstract

A process for preserving fresh ground meat comprises the steps of a) packaging fresh ground meat in a sealed package; b) placing the packaged fresh ground meat in a pressurization vessel and closing the vessel; c) pressurizing the pressurization vessel containing the packaged fresh ground meat to an elevated pressure of at least about 50,000 psi pressure so that the packaged fresh ground meat is placed under the elevated pressure; d) maintaining the elevated pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat for a time of from about 1 to about 300 seconds and at a temperature of from about 30 to about 45 F; e) then reducing the pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat to ambient pressure; and f) removing the ground meat from the pressurization vessel. Pathogens are effectively killed using this process, providing manufacturing efficiencies and longer product shelf life as compared to other ground meat handling procedures.

Claims

1 . A process for preserving fresh ground meat comprising the steps of: a) packaging fresh ground meat in a sealed package; b) placing the packaged fresh ground meat in a pressurization vessel and closing the vessel; c) pressurizing the pressurization vessel containing the packaged fresh ground meat to an elevated pressure of at least about 50,000 psi pressure so the packaged fresh ground meat is placed under the elevated pressure; d) maintaining the elevated pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat for a time of from about 1 to about 300 seconds and at a temperature of from about 30° to about 45° F.; e) then reducing the pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat to ambient pressure; and f) removing the fresh ground meat from the pressurization vessel. 2 . The process of claim I, wherein the elevated pressure is from about 50,000 psi to about 130,500 psi. 3 . (canceled) 4 . (canceled) 5 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the packaged fresh ground meat is under elevated pressure for a time of from about 30 to about 150 seconds. 6 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the packaged fresh ground meat is under elevated pressure for a time of from about 45 to about 70 seconds. 7 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the sealed package comprises a tray and has headspace over the fresh ground meat. 8 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the fresh ground meat is packaged in a sealed package having an oxygen displaced gas environment. 9 . The process of claim 8 , wherein the gas environment comprises a gas selected from carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, hydrogen, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and mixtures thereof. 10 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the ground meat comprises ground beef. 11 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the packaged fresh ground meat is in a meat portion of from about ⅛ to about 25 pounds of meat. 12 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the packaged fresh ground meat is in a meat portion of from about ⅛ to about 5 pounds of meat. 13 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the fresh ground meat is in the form of patties. 14 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the fresh ground meat contains additional food inclusions. 15 . The process of claim 14 , wherein the food inclusions are selected from mushrooms, onions, garlic, cheeses and combinations thereof. 16 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the ground meat contains seasoning inclusions. 17 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the fresh ground meat is free of non-endogenous antimicrobial treatment chemicals. 18 . The process of claim 1 , wherein the fresh ground meat is additionally frozen for storage and delivery to a customer. 19 . A fresh ground meat product prepared by a process comprising the steps of: a) packaging fresh ground meat in a sealed package; b) placing the packaged fresh ground meat in a pressurization vessel and closing the vessel; c) pressurizing the pressurization vessel containing the packaged fresh ground meat to an elevated pressure of at least about 50,000 psi pressure so the packaged fresh ground meat is placed under the elevated pressure; d) maintaining the elevated pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat for a time of from about 1 to about 300 seconds and at a temperature of from about 30° to about 45° F.; e) then reducing the pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat to ambient pressure; and f) removing the fresh ground meat from the pressurization vessel.
[0001] This application claims benefit of U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 61/245,931, filed 25 Sep. 2009, which application is fully incorporated herein by reference for all purposes. FIELD [0002] The present invention relates to preservation of ground meats. In particular, the present invention relates to preservation of ground meat by application of high pressure. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION [0003] Ground meat products are distributed either fresh or frozen. The advantage of using fresh distribution is a perceived consumer acceptance for “fresh” as well as quicker cooking times since one is cooking from fresh (35°-42° F.) instead of frozen (generally 0°-32° F.). However with fresh distribution comes a significantly lesser shelf life compared to frozen distribution (typically 25 days or less versus 120-365 days). Therefore inventory risk (shortages and being long on inventory) is a primary concern of fresh distribution. For example, a grocery store may increase inventory in anticipation of an advertised sale of ground beef for a particular weekend. If a winter storm occurs in the region on that weekend, the store may find itself with excess inventory. The store may need to downgrade the product into a chili or stew to use up the extra inventory at a loss. The opposite circumstance may also occur, when a customer misjudges the demand and is short orders. Due to a limited ability to stockpile inventory because of the traditionally short shelf life of this product, meat processors may not be able to fill the order in time and the customer may not be able to realize the potential margin gain. [0004] Another risk associated with ground meats is the potential contamination by pathogens such as E. coli or Salmonella. [0005] According to the U.S. Pat. No. 6,033,701, the use of pressure for sterilization of food was discovered early in the 20 th century. Early reports of the use of pressure in sterilization focused on fruits. High pressure has been used for treatment of certain foods, such as fish meat and/or kneaded fish meat products as discussed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,440,484 or raw food products, such as raw shellfish as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,537,601. [0006] U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,593,714 and 6,033,701 describe food product treatment processes where the food product is treated at a pressure of 25,000 psi and a temperature of 18-23 degrees C. for a time period of at least 5 days, or to at least 70 MPa pressure so that said foodstuff or said feedstuff is place under said pressure, maintaining said pressure on said container and said foodstuff or said feedstuff for more than 12 hours at a temperature of between 18 and 23 degrees centigrade, respectively. The very long retention time of these products under pressure as required in these patents is undesirable for mass production purposes. [0007] Companies such as the American Pasteurization Company and Avure Technologies use and/or provide equipment to carry out High Pressure Processing (HPP). These companies are careful to note that they are not food companies, but are equipment suppliers to food producers. Avure Technologies has been granted a number of patents, all focusing on the equipment and the processes for use of the equipment. The American Pasteurization Company currently lists foods that can be processed using HPP as: Ready-to-eat meat products Soups & stews Various fruits & vegetables Oysters and shellfish Jams & jellies Sauces & dips Cheeses http://www.amerpastco.com/faq.html [0015] Clearly, HPP is not universally useful for treatment of food products, and process parameters have been developed that are product specific. [0016] In 2001, the US FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition published an Evaluation and Definition of Potentially Hazardous Foods that among other strategies discussed the use of HPP for Microbial Inactivation. The report stated: Ground beef can be pasteurized by HPP to eliminate E. coli O157:H7, Listeria spp., Salmonella spp., or Staphylococcus spp. Much more work is required to develop a suggested hold time at 580 MPa due to the potential for tailing. Changes in product color and appearance may limit the usefulness of HPP treatment pressures above 200 to 300 MPa. http://www.cfsamfda.gov/˜comm/ift4-5.html [0018] Further study of use of HPP in inactivation of various microflora in inoculated ground beef has been carried out since the FDA report. For example, an article entitled “High Pressure Inactivation of Citrobacter freundii, Pseudomonasfluorescens and Listeria innocua in Inoculated Minced Beef Muscle” by A. Carlez et al.; Lebensm.-Wiss.u.-Technol., 26, pp. 357-363 (1993) describes pressure treatment of minced beef under a range of pressures for 20 minute periods at various temperatures. This article notes that the greatest reduction in microorganisms was observed at 50° C. Similarly, an article entitled “High-pressure destruction kinetics of Clostridium sporogenes spores in ground beef at elevated temperatures” by Songming Zhu et al.; International Journal of Food Microbiology, 126 (2008) pp. 86-92, combined high pressure treatment with heat, 80-100° C., to provide effective destruction of spores. [0019] The preservation of vegetables in contact with a noble gas, a mixture of noble gases or a mixture containing at least one noble gas is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,342,261. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION [0020] In the present process, fresh ground meat is packaged in a sealed package. This package is placed in a pressurization vessel, which is pressurized to at least about 50,000 psi pressure, so the packaged fresh ground meat is placed under elevated pressure. This elevated pressure is maintained for a time of from about 1 to about 300 seconds. preferably, the packaged fresh ground meat is at a temperature of from about 30° to about 45° F. during the pressurization process. The pressure on the packaged fresh ground meat is then reduced to ambient pressure and the packaged ground meat is removed from the pressurization vessel. [0021] The present invention provides an advantage in preservation of ground meat products by efficiently killing or otherwise deactivating or rendering harmless pathogens in the meat and decreasing the risk of pathogen contamination of food eaten by the consumer. In another aspect, spoilage organisms often introduce off odors and flavors in meat even before the meat is unhealthy for consumption. The present invention can improve the length of time that a meat product is at high quality as compared to prior art processes. By use of high pressure, ground meat can advantageously be treated without the use of chemical treatments or incorporation of preservatives that some consumers may find to be objectionable. In an embodiment of the present invention, ground meat products can be prepared using less than half of the amount of preservatives (such as lactates or salt) as compared to like ground meat products that have not been processed using pressure as described herein. In an embodiment of the present invention, the fresh ground meat additionally contains non-endogenous antimicrobial treatment chemicals to further decrease the risk of pathogen contamination of food eaten by the consumer. In an embodiment of the present invention, the fresh ground meat is free of non-endogenous antimicrobial treatment chemicals. In another embodiment of the present invention, the fresh ground meat is free of stabilizers, preservatives and similar processing aids. [0022] Surprisingly, the pressure used in the present process under the conditions of treatment has been found to be effective in killing pathogens in the meat in a very short period of time, enabling this process to be used in production scale settings. Because the pathogen killing step can be carried out in time of less than about 300 seconds, preferably less than about 150 seconds, and more preferably less than about 90 seconds, large scale production facilities can use the present process without undue delay in production. This is advantageous because meat producers can immediately respond to product shortages by quickly providing healthy ground meat product that has been treated for pathogens without time-consuming product treatment steps. Additionally, the product that is provided exhibits an excellent shelf life due to the completeness of the microbe kill and sanitary handling conditions after treatment. A conventional fresh ground meat product has a typical shelf life of up to about 26 days. In an embodiment of the present invention, the packaged fresh ground meat has a shelf life of at least about 90 days, and potentially at least about 120 days. [0023] Additionally, the present process is surprisingly effective even though the meat is not at elevated temperature. Thus, pathogens can be effectively killed in ground meat while at the same time maintaining preferred processing conditions whereby the ground meat never exceeds the temperature of 45° F. This allows meat producers to establish an HACCP program using well recognized safe temperature handling protocols without the need to heat the meat. The present invention thus provides a process whereby meat can be processed without transitioning the meat through undesirable temperature ranges (i.e. above conventional refrigeration temperatures and below cooking temperatures). [0024] It has surprisingly been found that fresh ground meat processed in the manner of the present invention can exhibit a significant reduction in pathogen risk by reducing E. coli O157:H7 by at least 4 log and preferably 5 log. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS [0025] The embodiments of the present invention described below are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed in the following detailed description. Rather a purpose of the embodiments chosen and described is so that the appreciation and understanding by others skilled in the art of the principles and practices of the present invention can be facilitated. [0026] The meat to be treated in accordance with the present invention may be any variety of meat from any species. Suitable meats include those obtained from bovine, porcine, equine, caprine, ovine, avian animals, or any animal commonly slaughtered for food production. Bovine animals may include, but are not limited to, buffalo, and all cattle, including steers, heifers, cows, and bulls. Porcine animals may include, but are not limited to, feeder pigs and breeding pigs, including sows, gifts, barrows, and boars. Ovine animals may include, but are not limited to, sheep, including ewes, rams, wethers, and lambs. Poultry may include, but are not limited to, chicken, turkey, and ostrich. Preferably the meat is bovine meat, and most preferably beef. [0027] The meat is ground in a conventional manner. In most large scale processing systems, the meat is first ground to ½ A inch diameter portions, and the fat content of the meat is adjusted to meet product requirements. The meat then typically is ground again to provide ⅛ to 3/32 “noodles.” [0028] For purposes of discussion, the following description will focus on the exemplary embodiment wherein the meat to be treated is fresh. This embodiment provides exceptional benefits due to the particular difficulty in providing a storage stable ground meat product in the fresh format. [0029] In an embodiment of the present invention, the fresh ground meat contains additional food inclusions. For example, the food inclusions may be selected from mushrooms, onions, garlic, cheeses and combinations thereof. In another embodiment, the ground meat contains seasoning inclusions. This is particularly advantageous because such a combination product provides consumers with the convenience they demand. Further, it is exceptionally difficult to provide combination products on a large commercial scale because spoilage is accelerated when such products are stored in combination. [0030] The meat is divided into appropriate portions and packaged in a sealed package. In an embodiment of the invention, the packaged fresh ground meat is in a meat portion (i.e. total amount of meat in the package) of from about ⅛ to about 25 pounds of meat, and in another embodiment in a meat portion of from about ⅛ to about 5 pounds of meat. Thus, the meat may be sized for use by institutional customers (e.g. restaurant, food service, or commercial users) or for the home consumer. The meat may be provided in any format, such as in the form of patties, pre-formed meat loaves, stuffed food products such as stuffed peppers, and the like. [0031] The package is an air-tight package suitable for storage, transport and presentation to the consumer. The packaging may be of a bulk, shipping, or individual serving type; wherein the container is a formable pouch, injectable pouch, sealable pouch, formable tray, vacuum formable tray or pouch, heat formable tray or pouch, or film covered tray. In an embodiment, the sealed package comprises a tray and has headspace over the fresh ground meat. Preferably, the fresh ground meat is packaged in a sealed package having an oxygen displaced gas environment, meaning that the amount of oxygen is at least less than present in the common atmosphere, and preferably substantially less than is present in the common atmosphere. Reduction in the exposure of the ground meat to oxygen is advantageous, because this reduces oxidation of the meat. Preferably the gas environment within the meat packaging is purged of oxygen. In an embodiment, the gas environment comprises a gas selected from carbon dioxide, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, hydrogen, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and mixtures thereof. [0032] Ground meat is preferably subjected to a gaseous atmosphere as discussed above by flushing, injecting, sparging, applying a vacuum and then flushing, pressurizing, or introducing said gaseous atmosphere into an impermeable or semipermeable film covering the ground meat. [0033] The packaged fresh ground meat may then be placed in a pressurization vessel and pressure may be applied in any appropriate manner. Equipment used to treat materials using high pressure is described, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 7,220,381; 5,316,745; 5,370,043; 7,310,990; and 7,096,774. [0034] A preferred process comprises submerging the packaged fresh ground meat in a liquid (often water) within an enclosed vessel. Pressure is then generated either by pumping more liquid into the pressure vessel or by reducing the volume of the pressure chamber. This pressure is uniformly distributed over all materials in the vessel, and even packages with headspace do not ordinarily burst. The pressurization vessel containing the packaged fresh ground meat is pressurized to an elevated pressure of at least about 50,000 psi. Preferably, the elevated pressure is from about 50,000 psi to about 130,500 psi, more preferably from about 60,000 psi to about 115,000 psi, and even more preferably from about 85,000 psi to about 100,000 psi. The packaged ground meat is treated under elevated pressure for a time of from about 1 to about 300 seconds, more preferably for a time of from about 30 to about 150 seconds, and even more preferably for a time of from about 45 to about 70 seconds. [0035] The pressurization is carried out at a temperature of from about 30° F. to about 50° F. when the ground meat is fresh. Preferably, the temperature of the fresh ground meat is never above 45° F., and more preferably never above about 40° F. during the entire production process from the grinding step through to removal of the ground meat from the pressurization vessel. Optionally, the entire process is carried out with the ground meat at a temperature of from about 30° F. to about 45° F., and then the meat is frozen for storage and/or distribution. [0036] Because the fresh ground meat product is already in a sealed package before treatment, the meat is not touched again or exposed to the air or any potentially unsanitary conditions until the package is opened by the consumer. [0037] In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the packaged fresh ground meat is submerged in water during the pressure treatment step. If the packaging is faulty, the present pressure treatment advantageously exposes any packaging defects such as pinholes, usually by permitting a detectable amount of water to enter into the package. Thus the present invention beneficially operates to reveal defective packaging that would lead to premature product spoilage if not detected. [0038] In use, the packaged fresh ground meat is sold in distribution channels in the packages in which the meat was treated, ready for customer purchase. This provides significant advantages, in that the package remains sealed until the ultimate customer (e.g. restaurant, food service or home consumer) opens the package and uses the ground meat for the desired purpose. [0039] All patents, patent applications (including provisional applications), and publications cited herein are fully incorporated by reference for all purposes as if individually incorporated. Unless otherwise indicated, all parts and percentages are by weight and all molecular weights are weight average molecular weights. The foregoing detailed description has been given for clarity of understanding only. No unnecessary limitations are to be understood therefrom. The invention is not limited to the exact details shown and described, for variations obvious to one skilled in the art will be included within the invention defined by the claims.

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    Publication numberPublication dateAssigneeTitle
    WO-2014070658-A1May 08, 2014Cargill, IncorporatedMethod for pasteurizing ground poultry