The overall safety of a food product is an important component in the mix of considerations for processing, distribution, and sale. With constant commercial demand for superior food products to sustain consumer interest, nonthermal processing technologies have drawn considerable attention for their ability to assist development of new products with improved quality attributes for the marketplace. This review focuses primarily on the nonthermal processing technology high-pressure processing (HPP) and examines current status of its use in the control and elimination of pathogenic human viruses in food products. There is particular emphasis on noroviruses and hepatitis A virus with regard to the consumption of raw oysters, because noroviruses and hepatitis A virus are the two predominant types of viruses that cause foodborne illness. Also, application of HPP to whole-shell oysters carries multiple benefits that increase the popularity of HPP usage for these foods. Viruses have demonstrated a wide range of sensitivities in response to high hydrostatic pressure. Viral inactivation by pressure has not always been predictable based on nomenclature and morphology of the virus. Studies have been complicated in part from the inherent difficulties of working with human infectious viruses. Consequently, continued study of viral inactivation by HPP is warranted.

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Author notes

This manuscript originated from a presentation at the Workshop on Nonthermal Food Preservation, a joint meeting of the IFT Nonthermal Processing Division and EFFoST, held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 7 through 10 September 2003, which was cosponsored by U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service Food Safety Program Conference grant OHO00927S.

Present address: National Center for Food Safety & Technology, 6502 S. Archer Road, Summit-Argo, IL 60501-1957, USA.