A.R.S. using plasma to kill food pathogens

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — The Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed an experimental treatment that could help protect some fresh produce from microbes such as Salmonella, Listeria and Escherichia coli 0157:H7.

The treatment uses cold plasma, which is generated when concentrated electricity is introduced into a gas until free electros are torn from the gas’s atoms.

The process is similar and related to the technology used to create plasma for computer chips, but in this case the process of turning gas into plasma has an antimicrobial effect. A.R.S. researchers aren’t the first to use this technology for food safety, but the production method could increase efficiency and lower costs when used in a large scale.

Scientists observed after treating apples with plasma the exposure to plasma resulted in a significant reduction in pathogen numbers without harming the apples. In addition, raising the air flow rate and length of exposure increased antimicrobial activity.

Right now the research is still in the experimental stage, and further studies will include other types of produce and expand the scale of the plasma-creation process.

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