Project Summary

High Pressure/Temperature Inactivation of TSE agents in Beef and Beef Products

Principle Investigator(s):
Paul Brown, Maurizio Pocchiari, and Richard Meyer
Meyer, R. Meyer & Associates
Completion Date:
May 2003



Ultra-high pressure treatment as a food preservation and pathogen inactivation methodology was first attempted in 1899, but did not ‘come of age’ until the past 15-20 years, when reliable machines were developed for commerce.

A large literature has since accumulated about the effects of pressure on proteins (including amyloidogenic proteins), and a variety of bacterial and viral pathogens (including bacterial spores). The method had not been considered (or needed) for the inactivation of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy ( TSE) in foods until the outbreak of a ‘variant’ form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) resulting most probably from the consumption of products containing mechanically recovered meat contaminated by spinal cord and ganglia tissues from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). 

Although a variety of precautionary measures have been adopted by government regulatory agencies that are designed to prevent both the recycling of potentially infectious tissue to animals and the entrance of such tissues into the human food chain, loopholes exist, and total compliance is always difficult to achieve. Therefore, a practical processing step that could assure risk-free beef products would be an attractive complementary strategy. High pressure inactivation, already in commercial use for some meats and other products, is a promising method by which TSE contamination could be eliminated.

The stated objectives for this work were:

  1. To explore infectivity reductions in an expanded range test conditions, including tests using various meat products and various TSE strains; and 
  2. To determine whether products so treated retained their aesthetic value.

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