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Control of Food Borne Bacterial and Viral Pathogens using Microwave Technologies

Rasco, Barbara; Tang, Juming
Washington State University
Start date
End date
  1. Determine thermal responses of selected food pathogens or their validated surrogates in selected foods for microwave heating regimes that maintain food safety and quality.
  2. Determine kinetics of food quality changes for short time microwave heating regimes.
  3. Improve dielectric thermal processes to control Clostridium botulinum spores in non-homogeneous foods and in ready-to-eat meals in multi-compartment trays.
  4. Develop systems, processes, and validation protocols for the control of vegetative bacterial foodborne pathogens and human noroviruses in prepackaged foods and ready-to-eat meals.
  5. Conduct accelerated storage and sensory studies comparing the quality of food prepared by microwave and conventional methods of similar lethality.
  6. Develop scale-up strategies for sterilization and pasteurization applications and support industrial implementation of these technologies to produce safe and high-quality ready-to-eat, shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen meals.
  7. Develop statistical tools to assess the safety of microwave processes in support of regulatory measures to protect public health.
  8. Transfer technology to public and private stakeholders and disseminate knowledge in short courses and workshops.
More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Intervention strategies are needed in the food industry to reduce food-borne illness, which continues to be a critical public health menace. The goal of this integrated project (for Program Area 4131) is to bridge scientific and engineering gaps that limit commercial applications of microwave technologies for the control of bacterial and viral pathogens in packaged foods, particularly ready-to-eat foods, deli meats, and seafoods.

APPROACH: 1. Determine the thermal response to selected food pathogens based upon log-linear response parameters of selected organisms in buffer, deli meat, frozen mussels, ground meat, pasta, and frozen chopped spinach.

2. Determine food quality changes occurring during microwave heating regimes assessing the appearance, texture, and color changes for shelf-stable and pasteurized foods, comparing quality with conventionally thermally processed foods receiving a heat treatment of similar microbial lethality.

3. Develop new processes and filing protocols for various categories of food and foods in different types of packaging to significantly reduce the cost for food companies and reduce redundancy in applications for FDA approval. The research will produce information for different, broad, non-homogeneous categories of packaged food. This work will include studies on the performance of non-foil films under microwave sterilization conditions.

4. Develop a small pilot-scale microwave sterilization and pasteurization system that will have the flexibility to conduct process development and validation protocol studies for prepackaged foods that will be suitable for various packaging types and configurations and operational at a wide range of temperatures.

5. Conduct accelerated storage studies for microwave treated foods culminating with sensory studies using expert panels.

6. Develop scale-up strategies for sterilization and pasteurization applications by adapting the pilot-scale system developed in (4) above and provide advice to industry on the use of microwave heating systems for the production of ready-to-eat meals including shelf stable items. Use validated computer based models developed from the pilot scale unit to project capital cost estimation and energy requirements for microwave treatment systems of different size.

7. Develop statistical models, initially based upon Monte Carlo simulation methods, to assess the safety of microwave processes in support of regulatory measures to protect public health. Models will be used to analyze the fate and survivability of food-borne pathogens in microwave processed foods.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
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Bacterial Pathogens
Meat, Poultry, Game