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HIGHQ RTE - Innovative Non-Thermal Processing Technologies to Improve the Quality and Safety of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Meals


The project aims to improve the safety and quality of 3 categories of ready-to-eat foods: ready-to-eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fluid foods, and ready-to-eat cooked foods. In order to enhance the safety of the 3 types of foods, and at the same time prevent the heat-induced chemical-physical and nutritional changes, non-thermal processes will be developed.

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Concerning ready-to-eat fresh fruits and vegetables, procedures based on photosensitization will be set up in order to drastically reduce the contamination level of naturally occurring and inoculated pathogenic species in vegetable raw materials and packaging. Concerning fluid foods, Pulsed Electric Fields technologies and High Pressure Homogenisation will be compared both in terms of pathogenic species inactivation and changes of the properties of proteins as well as food microstructure and rheology.

The ability of the latter technology to activate naturally occurring or exogenous enzymes will be exploited in order to generate new bioactive food components. Concerning ready-to-eat meals, low level of hydrostatic pressure to meals packaged under CO2 atmosphere will be applied in comparison and in addition to traditional heat processes. For each technology, modelling of the death kinetics of naturally occurring microbial population and deliberately inoculated pathogenic species and their evolution during storage, will be performed in order to obtain inactivation probabilistic models that will be the basis of quantitative risk assessment procedures.
The results of the risk assessment will allow the definition of the lethality levels required for the species of interest and of the exposure doses of the various processes as a function of the desired shelf life and quality level. For the various combinations products-processes also the meal formulation optimisation will be performed in relation to chemical, nutritional, micro-structural and functional changes induced by the exposure to the various processes.


For more information about this project, please visit the <a href="…; target="_blank">European Commission Food Quality and Safety in Europe</a> Web site.

Guerzoni, Maria Elisabetta
University of Bologna
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