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Identification and Evaluation of Pre/Post-Harvest Practices Promoting Food Safety of Louisiana Produce


The goal of this research will be to develop pre/post-harvest treatments methods to minimize the food safety risk associated with fresh produce. The objectives of this proposed research are:1. Evaluate the efficacy of UV-C light treatment on food safety risk reduction from irrigation water2. Identify the time and temperature parameters for hot water treatment during pecan processing that can be regarded as a kill step3. Determine the effectiveness of UV-C light treatment on reducing bacterial pathogens on the surface of fruits

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Produce food safety has emerged as a critical agricultural issue and often presents a significant financial threat to growers and processors. With the recent enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)" FDA will have a legislative mandate to require comprehensive, science-based preventive controls across the food supply". The potential introduction of foodborne pathogens during growing, harvesting and packing necessitates that producers understand pathogen sources to reduce risk, especially when dealing with fresh produce which are consumed raw. Fresh produce production is water intensive and production requirements are met by drawing water from ground and surface sources. The quality of surface water is variable, and runoff has put the quality of surface water into question. Water can be a source of both plant and human pathogen contamination and growers must take steps to minimize the risk of produce contamination with source water. Pecans are native to lower Midwest and Southeastern United States. Cattle grazing in pecan orchards are one of the most common forms of ground cover management in native pecan groves. However, cattle manure is the main source of foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes. There is a provision in the proposed FSMA produce safety rule that a farm will be exempted from the produce safety rule coverage if the produce from the farm is processed with a kill step. FDA recommends a treatment process must achieve a 5 log reduction (reduction by 100,000 fold) of microbial populations to be regarded as a kill step. If the pecan has 100,000 pathogenic microbes on it, a 5 log reduction would reduce the number of microorganisms to one. Food products processed with a kill step will insure food safety in the final products. Thus, identifying a kill step in pecan processing is vital for reducing the food safety risk associated with pecans grown in orchards that were also used for pasture. UV-C light treatment leaves no residue in the water and crops due to the use of light instead of chemical disinfectants. However, there is a critical knowledge gaps exist regarding the use of UVC light for reducing pathogen risk from agricultural water and fresh produce. This proposed research will work on identification and development of a sustainable and effective pre/post-harvest treatment process utilizing UVC light and hot water treatments for food safety risk reduction.

Adhikari, Achyut
Louisiana State University
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