Pathogen Inactivation in Fresh Produce by Incorporation of Sanitizers into Existing Operations within the Produce Chain

Pathogen Inactivation in Fresh Produce by Incorporation of Sanitizers into Existing Operations within the Produce Chain (Drs. Sastry, Yousef, and Kaletunc)

This project addresses, for the first time, the physics aspects of sanitization treatment of fresh produce.

Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is on the increase; however, incidents of produce contamination has raised concerns regarding such products.

Work is aimed at understanding the physics aspects of fresh produce safety. Our prior work (collaboration with Dr. Ahmed Yousef) has shown improved sanitization by use of gaseous ozone during specific produce operations of significantly longer duration. Current work is aimed at determining the efficacy of liquid versus gaseous sanitizers. 

This project has initiated a new collaboration with Iowa State University and New Mexico State University, involving a team of engineers, microbiologists, chemists and media specialists attempting to improve safe practices for the fresh produce industry. The work to date shows that current sanitization practices involving organic acids and surfactants are ineffective, especially when bubbles reside beneath produce that is being washed. Under these conditions, no sanitization can be expected. However, gaseous sanitizers may be effective in reaching crevices. Our more recent work confirms our original calculation that liquid sanitizers require roughly a half-hour to have any effect on bacteria.  Also, we have found that once a liquid sanitizer is applied, it may slightly decrease the efficacy of subsequent gaseous treatment; thus proper liquid removal prior to gaseous treatment is necessary. We expect to recommend a set of processes that the produce industry could use to mitigate otherwise unavoidable contamination.  We are also planning educational programming in these areas.