Summary of Awards to Date

New approach for decontaminating and improving the quality of fresh and fresh-cut produce utlizing packaging design and chlorine dioxide.

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Date

Sep. 1, 2010 - Aug. 31, 2015

Award Number

MICL02111

Funding Agency

USDA-NIFA

Investigator

Maria Rubino, Ph.D.
Michigan State University

Summary

Minimally processed greens and pre-packaged salads are convenient and popular products well suited to modern life styles. However, such products have emerged as important vehicles of transmission for foodborne pathogens. Several large scale outbreaks of pathogens associated with fresh produce have resulted in serious illnesses and even deaths. Conventional washing treatments used to sanitize produce may not remove pathogens that are located in hard-to-reach areas of leafy greens and other vegetables. In this work we will study chlorine dioxide (ClO2) gas as an antimicrobial treatment for leafy greens (lettuce and spinach) and cherry tomatoes for use with current production lines and packaging systems. To inactivate human pathogens with ClO2, the product must be exposed for a prolonged time, and so we will use packaging strategies to address this problem. To complement the sanitizing step, a specific package system will be designed that ensures and maximizes effective ClO2 gas distribution inside the package, even in hard-to-reach areas. Using the currently available packaging system and material the inside of the package will be model and design by identifying the best gas injection port, gas flow ClO2 and by developing an insert to modify the conditions inside the package. We will evaluate the efficacy of the packaging system for inactivating pathogens and prolonging the shelf life of leafy greens and cherry tomatoes. And finally, a pilot scale treatment will be evaluated and scaled up to demonstrate the feasibility of the system design.