Template:Applied Nonthermal Technologies Lab

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently identified leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, and almonds as commodities with a high potential risk of pathogen contamination. These commodities are frequently consumed fresh, ready-to-eat or used as ingredients, and are generally minimally processed to maintain freshness, nutritional value, and sensory quality. Increasing consumption of these high-risk foods has resulted in increased outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites. As current intervention processes may not be sufficient to control pathogen contamination in these foods, new intervention technologies are urgently needed. Studies on controlling biological hazards with decontaminating radiant energy (such as monochromatic blue light and pulsed light), cold plasma, and gases (such as chlorine dioxide and ozone) have shown promise. Crucial for their potential commercial adoption, these technologies are waterless, nonthermal, and highly suitable for produce and low-moisture food (LMF).
  • Accordingly, the goal of this study is to develop an integrated project among academia, government, industry partners, and stakeholders to develop effective waterless, non-thermal processing technologies to provide consumers with safe, nutritious, high-quality produce and low-moisture foods, equip Extension agents with the knowledge and tools that they need to influence a change in consumer perception related to food processing technologies, and facilitate the commercialization of these technologies and dissemination of knowledge through education and outreach. The research objectives of the project are to:
  1. Determine the efficacy of cold plasma, monochromatic blue light, pulsed light, gaseous chlorine dioxide, and ozone against foodborne pathogens including bacteria, viruses, and parasites high-risk foods and the interactions among the treatments, environmental conditions, and product characteristics;
  2. Elucidate mechanisms of pathogen inactivation by these waterless, nonthermal processing technologies; and
  3. Develop new equipment and processing protocols and incorporate the technologies into food production.
  • The education objectives of the project are to:
  1. Develop a “Foodborne Contamination-Impact on Food Safety” course and an “Emerging Nonthermal Technologies” course; and 2) Train students in emerging nonthermal technologies, parasitology, microbiology, virology, and food safety.
  • The outreach objectives of the project are to:
  1. Effectively communicate the demonstrated antimicrobial efficacy, sustainability, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness of these technologies to the food industry;
  2. Develop educational materials to educate consumers and increase their acceptance of these new processing technologies; and
  3. Collaborate with manufacturers in equipment design, automation/control, testing, and adaptability/suitability assessment for commercial applications.