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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Research Project #432118

Research Project: Fluid Dynamics of Impact and Mixing for Improved Washing of Fresh and Fresh-cut Produce

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32420-009-007-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2016
End Date: Jul 31, 2022

1. Advance scientific basis for washing and sanitizing of fresh-cut produce through experimental and theoretical approaches in interfacial fluid dynamics. 2. Support the development of novel technologies to remove organic materials and improve produce washing and sanitizing efficacy.

In close collaboration with ARS and University of Illinois collaborating teams, the Cooperator will conduct detailed experiments, analysis, and modeling of the impact of sprays on contaminated surfaces of different roughness, compliance, and contamination levels. The Cooperator will translate research results to give recommendations to ARS on optimal spray design for a range of levels of soil contamination, bacterial contaminations, and produce type; and also give recommendations on how to best optimize the use of sprays of different properties (pressure, drop size, angles) at different steps of the washing and sanitizing process of fresh produce. The recommendations will be tested, refined, and validated at ARS. The Cooperator will advise and assist on determination of parameter ranges on ongoing numerical simulations of flow on surfaces conducted at UIUC collaborating team and associated translation of knowledge for research at the ARS plant with particular focus on optimizing additives and flows for removal of contaminants, organic exudates, or biofilms from produce surfaces. The Cooperator will conduct experiments on fluid fragmentation and droplet creation from sprays in relation to three major areas: 1) efficacy of removal of soil from surfaces of various properties applicable to produce; 2) depth of delivery and mixing efficacy of sprayed sanitizer on contaminated (dry or pre-wetted) surfaces; 3) efficacy of rinsing and removal of sanitizer and its derivative from produce surfaces ready for packaging and consumption. Direct visualization and quantification of the processes taking place during spray drop impact on produce will be complemented by mathematical modeling of such processes; thereby providing new tools to quickly assess risk and efficacy of current and new technologies on cleaning and sanitizing fresh leafy green in particular. The overall intent will be to tailor the washing and sanitizing process to minimize water use while maximize cleaning and ensure high chlorine concentration and neutralization of pathogens at the deepest parts of fresh produce surfaces. The Cooperator will design novel laboratory experimental techniques, image processing tools, and mathematical models to achieve the above goals and overall intent.