Sep. 1, 2009 - Aug. 31, 2013Award Number
USDA - CSREESAmount Awarded
Sudhir K. Sastry, Ph.D.
Ohio State University
Yousef, A., and Kaletunc, G.Summary
Contamination of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables is a problem that demands urgent attention. Since agricultural fields are open systems, the best conceivable practices may be compromised by unforeseen animal, bird or insect intrusion events. Therefore effective decontamination technologies must be developed to ensure that pathogenic bacteria, even when internalized, are inactivated in a cost-effective manner without sacrificing quality. Our engineering analysis shows that conventional wash treatments are ineffective because they are far too short to allow sanitizers to penetrate into microbial sites in crevices. The analysis and our previous work show that the best strategy involves using sanitizers during existing steps within the produce chain: for example, cooling, transit and other operations. Under these conditions, provided sanitizer-biofilm contact is assured, sanitization is feasible. We will use this approach to develop cost-effective treatments for leafy vegetables (lettuce and spinach) for E. coli O157:H7 and other relevant pathogens. We will develop interactive learning experiences for students, industry and other clientele, using proven intervention methods. Instructional materials will be developed in English and Spanish by a media production team. We will establish a Produce Safety Learning Facility, where students and industry personnel may obtain hands-on experience in new practices for safety assurance. Our evaluation strategy uses a set of pre-and post-tests, and surveys. Stakeholder interaction will occur via twice-yearly project meetings and the guidance of a Process Industry Advisory Board, some of whose members plan to adopt successful practices arising from this project.