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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Byron, Georgia » Fruit and Tree Nut Research » Research » Research Project #440662

Research Project: Enhancing Food Safety in Pecan Processing

Location: Fruit and Tree Nut Research

Project Number: 6042-21220-014-006-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 15, 2021
End Date: Jul 14, 2026

1. Investigate various methods of pasteurization for the ability to protect pecans from microbial contamination. 2. Monitor food safety following pasteurization methods using molecular and non-molecular methods. 3. Explore various novel non-thermal intervention methods (pulsed UV light, essential oils) to reduce pathogens and extend the shelf-life and quality of pecans in storage. 4. Evaluate the quality of pecans following application of non-thermal technologies.

Efficient and safe pecan processing is critical to the pecan industry for fostering economic stability and growth. The potential for microbial contamination during or post-processing warrants the development of mechanisms that will ensure food safety. Thus, the overall goal of this project is to conduct research toward improving pecan food safety through pasteurization or novel non-thermal technologies. In a systems approach involving fundamental and applied components, Fort Valley State University will assist ARS in conducting research to develop or enhance food safety in pecan processing. Specifically, the Fort Valley State University will assist ARS in the following approaches: 1) Testing various post-harvest intervention technologies (pulsed UV light and essential oils) to reduce pathogens, 2) Evaluating the potential of Salmonella and E. coli to attach and survive on in-shell pecans/pecan kernels when stored under ambient, refrigerated, and frozen conditions, 3) Modeling the effect of pulsed UV light and essential oils on the inactivation kinetics of Salmonella and E. coli on in-shell pecans/pecan kernels, 4) Detecting the presence of pathogens (such Salmonella, other pathogens of concern or model pathogens) using different methods, and 5) Exploring other mechanisms to prolong pecan shelf-life and quality during storage, e.g., by manipulating atmosphere, packaging or other biotic and abiotic processes. The research will begin on a model or prototype scale in the laboratory. Subsequently, the most promising approaches will be tested on a commercial scale. The results of the various research components will be published in refereed journals, trade magazines, or extension articles, presented at professional and grower meetings. Information from the research will be integrated into standard pecan processing procedures.