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Enhancing the Safety and Quality of Fresh Produce and Low-Moisture Foods by Waterless Non-Thermal Technologies


<p>The goal of this study is to develop an integrated project among academia, government, industry partners, and stakeholders to develop effective waterless, non-thermal processing technologies to provide consumers with safe, nutritious, high-quality produce and low-moisture foods, equip Extension agents with the knowledge and tools that they need to influence a change in consumer perception related to food processing technologies, and facilitate the commercialization of these technologies and dissemination of knowledge through education and outreach.</p>

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<p>This research will determine the effects of processing parameters (e.g., concentration, intensity, and time) of light and gaseous treatments, environmental conditions (e.g., temperature and humidity), and product characteristics (e.g., tissue makeup, surface structure, and roughness) on the inactivation and survival of foodborne bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens, such as Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum, and human norovirus. Food products will include fresh and fresh-cut leafy greens, root and berry produce and LMF, such whole peppercorn and almond. Logarithmic reductions of bacterial pathogens and parasites will be determined using a viable count method and a combination of cell culture and mouse models, respectively. Since human norovirus cannot be grown in cell culture, the inactivation of human norovirus will be determined using a novel published receptor-binding assay and the infectivity will be further verified in a published gnotobiotic pig model. Similarly, work with the protozoan parasite T. gondii will be used to asses Cyclospora, which cannot be grown in cell culture or in animal models. The use of two phenotypically different protozoa (Cryptosporidium and Toxoplasma) will be useful. Mathematical models will be developed to describe inactivation kinetics. The effects of these processing technologies on product quality attributes, such as sensory, color, texture, nutrients, and consumer acceptance, will be evaluated using instruments in conjunction with sensory panels. Technologies that are capable of achieving the desired performance standards for hazard reduction, nutrition, and quality will be optimized for industrial applications. By working with growers, processors, economic researchers, and environmental scientists, the costs, benefits, and environmental impact of implementing the technologies will also be determined.</p><p>For the education, 2 new courses, "Foodborne Contamination-Impact on Food Safety" course and an "Emerging Nonthermal Technologies" will be developed. Students training in emerging nonthermal technologies, parasitology, microbiology, virology, and food safety will be conducted.Methods for carrying extension component include</p><p> 1) access consumer perception of food processing technologies,</p><p> 2) develop educational materials,</p><p> 3) provide training to Cooperative Extension agents,</p><p> 4) extension agent training, and</p><p> 5) eXtension webinar series.The project team has established a plan for evaluating project progress to achieve the research, education, and education objectives and ensure the successful completion of the project.</p><p>The plan includes a master timeline/milestones that indicates the specific tasks, time, and milestones for each participating institution. A template of performance standard is to be used by the team member to list task, timeline, milestones, and indicators of completion for establishing his/her annual work plan. The effectiveness of the research, education, and extension program will be evaluated.</p>

Wu, Vivian
University of Maine
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