Mild conservation – not what it seems

We live in a very unique time. Clearly, this is true for countless reasons – but not in the least for the way we eat and experience food. For the majority of human life, small groups of people hunted and gathered their own food. The berries, nuts, vegetables and occasional meat were shared within a small and close group of people – who personally knew and trusted each other.

Fast-forward to today: there’s a handful of multibillion corporations that process almost all of the food we consume. This is an entirely new situation – what was true for tens of thousands of years, has now changed in a totally different system. The people who produce the food don’t share it with the ones who eat it anymore. This decoupling has resulted in some serious trust issues.

The faith in the food industry seems to be at an all-time low. The democratization of media, and the resulting social media, play an important role. And organizations that try to stain the food industries’ reputation are often the loudest ones. One of the latest buzzwords that really gets their gears grinding: ultra-processed food. Its definition: industrial formulations, which besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, include substances not used in culinary preparations. Or in other words: recipes that were carefully designed by scientists in white coats. ‘’Scary!’’

Partly, this fear is grounded. Ultra-processed foods are for a large part responsible for the obesity outbreak we’re facing. On average, humans are now much more likely to die from overeating than from hunger. And the highly refined food on the shelves is definitely not doing any good. Unfortunately though, the term ultra-processed is slowly starting to be used as an umbrella term for all novel food processing techniques. A salsa that is conserved by applying pressures of up to 7000 bars? ‘’Ultra-processed!’’ A fruit juice with a shelf life of 21 days thanks to Pulsed Electric Field? ‘’Ultra-processed!’’

Here we arrive at the crux of the matter. Because not only is this (perhaps intuitive) association wrong, the exact opposite is true. High Pressure Processing (HPP) and PurePulse (PEF 2.0) are technologies that belong to the group of mild conservation techniques. These techniques are used to conserve our food without applying much heat or adding conservatives, acidity, sugar or salt. The result: safe products that still contain all components that were originally present. The food tastes, feels and look as fresh as it did before. And they are just as healthy as their fresh or homemade counterparts. Mild conservation doesn’t give us more sugary donuts or even greasier burgers. It gives retailers opportunities to sell wholesome and fresh cut food – with a 3 week shelf life!

So yes – there are companies in the food industry that manipulate their food to get consumers addicted to them. That doesn’t mean however that the entire food processing industry follows suit. There are many technologies, such as mild conservation, that actually make our food more safe, sustainable and healthy. It’s just up to you to leave that soft drink on the shelf and choose a PurePulsed juice instead. Because it’s not only better for the environment, it’s better for you!

Nick van Lanen