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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Intervention Technologies for Minimally Processed Foods

Location: Food Safety and Intervention Technologies

Project Number: 8072-41420-018-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 20, 2010
End Date: Dec 19, 2015

Objective:
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.

Approach:
As part of this project, new and/or improved antimicrobial intervention technologies will be developed and optimized, focusing on chemical and non-thermal physical interventions. Physical and chemical treatments include the use of hot water pasteurization, gaseous chlorine dioxide, cold plasma, hydrogen peroxide vapor, and ionizing radiation alone or in combination. The microbial ecology of human pathogens on the surfaces of commodities, including attachment, biofilm formation and internalization, can alter the efficacy of the intervention. Research to better understand this aspect of pathogen biology, as well as interactions with native microflora including spoilage organisms, will be used in an iterative approach; this data will assist in the development and optimization of intervention strategies, including microbial antagonist-based biological controls. Initial studies will concentrate on high-risk produce commodities, such as leafy greens and tomatoes, and will also focus on additional products identified as contributing to foodborne illnesses. Intervention strategies will be examined for their effects on product quality and shelf-life. To facilitate industry implementation of promising treatments and treatment combinations, engineering process models and economic models will be developed to identify key barriers to commercialization during scale-up. This information will guide research efforts to address the most important aspects of successful implementation. Effective, cost-efficient intervention technologies will be transferred to industry to reduce the risk of produce-related outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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