The carriage of enteric pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni and Listeria monocytogenes on meat continues to represent a significant food safety issue. Although there are various methods used to decontaminate carcasses (e.g.,, acid rinse, hot water pasteurization or stream vacuum), the log reductions achieved are limited by the presence of pathogens in protective pores on the meat surface. In this project, the efficacy of a UV and hydrogen peroxide-based treatment to inactivate pathogens on raw and ready-to-eat meat surfaces (beef, pork and chicken) will be evaluated.
When used alone, UV and hydrogen peroxide have limited decontamination efficacy. However, when hydrogen peroxide is illuminated with UV, highly antimicrobial radicals are formed that can penetrate into protective crevices thereby enhancing the inactivation of microbes on uneven surfaces. This synergistic action of UV:hydrogen peroxide has been used for over 20 years for decontaminating cartons in aseptic processing. More recently the same method has been applied to inactivate pathogens on and within fresh produce.
In the proposed program of work a method will be developed to decontaminate meat surfaces. A treatment chamber based on a rotating tunnel with lamps positioned within the interior will be constructed. Hydrogen peroxide will be applied as a dip bath or via misting within the chamber. Initial trials will optimize chamber geometry, number of lamps, UV intensity, hydrogen peroxide concentration and temperature. Validation studies will be undertaken using meat (beef, pork and chicken) inoculated with a range of relevant pathogens. Trials will also be performed on ready-to-eat deli meats inoculated with L. monocytogenes. Survivors, if any, on UV:hydrogen peroxide-treated meats will be visualized using dual labeled (bioluminescence and green fluorescent protein) strains of Salmonella and E. coli. Potential post-treatment recovery of pathogens, extension to shelf-life and changes in the sensory characteristics of UV:hydrogen peroxide treated meat will be assessed.
Expected Impact of Project Outcomes on Food Safety in Ontario: Although product recalls associated with raw and RTE meats are rare within Ontario, any foodborne illness outbreaks can have a devastating effect on markets and consumer health. The technology to be developed will provide an effective low cost method for inactivating pathogens on primal cuts and deli meats prior to packaging. Reducing the carriage of pathogens on meat products will improve food safety and reduce the number of product recalls.
<P> For more information, please visit the <a href="http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/research/foodsafety/index.html" target="_blank">Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Food Safety Research Program</a>.