1. Develop new effective chemical and physical decontamination interventions for produce and/or improve the performance of current interventions such as gas-phase antimicrobials and cold plasma. Develop protocols for implementing interventions within a multi-step approach that improves decontamination efficacy, retains product quality and/or enhances the efficiency and practicality of the effective interventions. a. Develop and optimize gas-phase antimicrobial treatments and precision thermal treatments. b. Develop and optimize cold plasma and irradiation as non-thermal antimicrobial treatments. 2. Understand ecological factors that influence treatment decontamination efficacy, including interaction of human pathogens with native microorganisms and behavioral factors such as attachment, internalization and biofilm formation. Use this information to develop and evaluate biological-based intervention strategies for pathogen reduction while maintaining product quality. 3. Develop and evaluate process models, including economic analysis models, in order to identify barriers to commercialization and to facilitate technology transfer and commercial adoption of interventions and intervention combinations.
Inactivation of Foodborne Pathogens with Non-Thermal Plasma Processing and Natural Antimicrobials and Genetic Mechanisms Underlying Microbial Inactivation or Adaptation
Source: University of Tennessee
Non Technical Summary
Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. continue to plague the safety of our fresh fruits and vegetables, primarily because the food industry is lacking an effective means of inactivating these organisms. This project will seek to address these concerns by investigating application of plasma processing technologies, natural antimicrobials, and microbial ecology. Non-thermal plasma processing has the potential to be utilized as a means of inactivating pathogens on fresh fruits and vegetables while maintaining product quality; however, this technology is in its infancy and much research is still required to validate it prior to its application by the food industry. Natural antimicrobials will also be studied to determine their stability and efficacy in a produce rinse solution. These antimicrobials are gaining wider use by the food industry as consumers begin to demand more natural ingredients and food processing aids. We will seek to determine what processes affect their stability, and how their activity against foodborne pathogens can be improved. Gene expression profiles can give insights to microbial ecology and help researchers determine the best timing and application of interventions to help improve the overall safety of a food product. Through these studies, we will be able to determine how microorganisms adapt to interventions, like chlorine washes, and the best timing of interventions, such as when the cells are in distress, to improve the overall reduction of pathogens. This research will add to the scientific knowledge that is necessary to help improve the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.