Sep. 1, 2008 - Aug. 31, 2011Award Number
USDA - CSREESAmount Awarded
Maria Rubino, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
Auras, R., Matthews, K., and Annous, B.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 several strategies to address this problem. (1) We will first identify ClO2 gas treatment conditions that can inactivate human pathogens on fresh-cut leafy vegetables while maintaining product quality. (2) 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. An insert will be used to modify the conditions inside the package; currently available packaging materials will be used for the external package. (3) 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, (4) a pilot scale treatment will be evaluated and scaled up to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of the system design.