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Improving Safety of Complex Food items using Electron Beam Technology


The viability of pathogenic organisms on the surface and interior of fresh fruits and vegetables can be significantly reduced by electron beam irradiation. However, due to their complex configuration, it is critical to ensure that the dose delivered to all parts of the treated food product is uniform. The objectives of this proposal are to: <ol> <li>Identify knowledge and research gaps and available resources to address current food safety problems;
<li>Develop protocols to provide the most uniform dose distribution in complex shaped fruits and vegetables without deteriorating the quality attributes of the products;
<li>Implement education and training of students, producers, industry as well as consumers; and
<li>Develop an evaluation method to analyze the effectiveness of the education and extension interventions.</ol>

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The initiative proposed here requires a synergistic blend of expertise to address the research, education, and extension topics needed to make significant contributions in improving the safety of fresh and minimally processed imported and domestic fruits and vegetables, primarily in the development of safe and efficacious techniques to enhance or ensure microbiological safety and product quality. We will develop a dosimetry technique for surface and high-energy irradiation of fruits and vegetables in bulk or fresh-cut/sliced based on imaging processing and computer simulation. A database on effectiveness of electron beam irradiation treatments (surface and high energy) on microbial death of spoilage microorganisms, organoleptic and nutritional quality of irradiated food items will be developed. We will implement education and training of students, producers, industry as well as consumers by marketing and launching training modules and workshops. Findings will be disseminated at scientific meetings and other professional settings.
With almost 25% of food production after harvest in the United States lost due to damage caused by bacteria, mold, and contamination with spoilage microorganisms, it is imperative to investigate the applicability of promising alternative technologies that can be used to improve the safety of ready-to-eat and fresh agricultural products. The recent progress in the development of electron beam accelerators together with the increased number of illness associated with produce-associated food borne disease outbreaks in the last years, provide the incentive for the development of an efficient technique to ensure hygienic quality of food products, especially those to be consumed raw or undercooked, to protect consumer health. Yet, despite the advances in irradiation methods available, satisfactory irradiation of fresh produce requires strict process control to ensure that the dose delivered to all parts of the treated product falls within some specified range. Hence it is necessary to assess the ability of a given irradiation system to deliver the required dose to the products intended for treatment This project is aimed at the engineering, design, education, and dissemination of an alternative technology that will help ensure that the U.S. will have a safe and plentiful supply of fresh ruits and vegetables. This directly addresses one of the priority research areas established by CSREES on the impact of alternative food processing technologies on food safety.

Moreira, Rosana
Texas A&M University
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