Summary of Awards to Date

Rechargeable antimicrobial and antifouling plastics for improved cleaning and sanitation of plastic bins and totes


Jan. 1, 2018 - Dec. 31, 2019

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Amount Awarded



Nitin Nitin, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis


Gang Sun, Ph.D., Glenn Young, Ph.D.


Sanitation of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) is a significant challenge and can lead to cross-contamination of fresh produce. These cross-contamination events can result in a food borne disease outbreak as well as reduce the shelf life or quality of the product. To address this challenge, this proposed research is aimed at developing a rechargeable antimicrobial and antifouling plastic material and its evaluation for elimination contamination of RPCs from various contaminating sources and reducing biofilm formation. The antimicrobial properties of this material can be recharged by simply using a diluted bleach solution. This novel material can be used as a rechargeable liner attached to existing RPCs and/or development of new RPCs with this novel plastic material. This novel material may also be used in combination with wooden bins. The proposed research plan will focus on Listeria as target bacteria. To complement laboratory based research, the proposed research plan also evaluates field testing of this material in improving sanitation of RPCs in the fresh produce processing facilities as well as evaluating any impact on produce quality with extended contact. In summary, this research proposal addresses a significant unmet need in the industry to improve sanitation of RPCs.

Technical Abstract

Sanitation of reusable plastic containers is a significant challenge that increases the risk of cross- contamination of fresh produce with both pathogenic and spoilage microbes. This proposed research is aimed at addressing this unmet need by developing novel rechargeable antimicrobial and antifouling plastic materials and evaluating their potential to prevent contamination of RPC surfaces with Listeria and formation of Listeria biofilms. The specific goals of the proposed research are: (a) eliminate Listeria contamination of RPC food contact surfaces using novel rechargeable antimicrobial plastic surface from contaminated water, produce or other residues; (b) significantly reduce/eliminate biofouling and biofilm formation and (c) demonstrate translation of this material to provide continuous sanitation of RPCs in an industrial setting. To achieve these goals, this project brings together an interdisciplinary team of polymer chemist, food safety engineer and food microbiologist. In summary, this proposal addresses an unmet need to improve sanitation of reusable plastic containers in fresh produce industry and has a significant potential to develop a novel solution that can aid in improving safety of fresh produce across the entire chain including growers, processors, shippers and retailers.