|Postharvest processing technologies to improve food safety and quality|
B. A. NIEMIRA (1). (1) USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, PA, U.S.A.
Contamination of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables by foodborne pathogens is an ongoing problem. The limitations of conventional sanitation methods have prompted research into novel interventions. In addition to advanced applications of gas-phase chemical sanitizers, several promising physical treatments are in development. Cold plasma is a nonthermal food processing technology which uses energetic, reactive gases to inactivate contaminating microbes. This flexible sanitizing method uses electricity and a carrier gas such as air, oxygen, nitrogen or helium; antimicrobial chemical agents are not required. The primary modes of action are via reactive chemical products of the cold plasma ionization process and UV light. Reductions of greater than 5 logs can be obtained for pathogens such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7. Additional treatments rely on precise applications of high intensity light, either as pulsed broad-spectrum exposures, or as a narrow-band, monochromatic light treatment. This presentation will summarize the science behind these technologies and describe recent advances. Finally, key areas of future research will be described that will facilitate commercialization.