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Sanitation and Validation of Produce Rinse Water to Enhance Food Safety


OBJECTIVES: Determine and validate the quality controls for postharvest rinse water; Assess and determine optimal quality controls to monitor the chlorine in rinse water; Validate identified quality controls using piloted farm site; Design rapid test to validate rinse water sanitation; Assess and determine rapid qualitative rinse water method using biosensor/phage technology; Validate rapid method using piloted farm site <P>OUTPUTS: Products Upon the completion of this research, we anticipate identifying optimal quality controls and develop a user-friendly, affordable, and rapid detection method to evaluate rinse water quality to assist to managing postharvest sanitation water. <P>Specific outcomes/products related to the research activities are outlined below: <br/>Publications: This research is of interest to Food Scientists, Applied Microbiologists and Agriculturalists. While there is a fair amount of research that has been conducted proving the efficacy of treating rinse water to improve food safety with chlorine, there is limited research in assessing what quality control tools are most beneficial (accounting for accuracy,user-friendliness, and cost). Targeted publications that would benefit from this research include: Food Safety Magazine, Produce Magazine and/or Journal of Applied Microbiology. It is anticipated that this research should result in a minimum of six publications in peer-reviewed journals (2 from RA-1; 4 from RA-2). <br/>Conferences: In effort to further expand our research impact within the scientific community, we intend on participating in 3 difference scientific conferences to report progress and final outcomes to the academic community. Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) have been selected as they are leading forums to share innovative research pertaining to food safety. <br/>Patents: The optimized sensor will be submitted for a patent. <P>EXTENSION ACTIVITIES & PRODUCTS:<br/> The main objective of our extension activities is to provide effective, affordable, user-friendly tools to improve the overall food safety practices of postharvest rinse water using dunk tanks. Several mechanisms will be used to reach out the stakeholders in effort to approach our audience from a variety of communication vehicles: <br/>Conferences: We plan on participating in the New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference (NEVFC) to interact with the agricultural community. During each conference we intend on showcasing our research through presentations and networking within the participating farming community. <br/>Issue Best Practices: Utilizing internal Umass Extension partners, we will publish best practices guide and fact sheets related to postharvest sanitation through several publication channels, including: the current MA GAP training manual, Umass Extension Vegetable Notes publication and accessible on-line Umass Extension websites. <br/>Workshop: We intend to host a workshop for vegetable growers through Umass Extension to the farming community to educate the farmers about the importance of rinse water management and to provide tools and best practices for postharvest rinse water management.

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Non-Technical Summary:<br/>
It is estimated that over 437,000 incidences of produce-related foodborne illnesses occur each year in Massachusetts alone 1. In addition to morbidity and mortality, the estimated cost as a result of the illnesses is $903 million. Postharvest sanitation, in particular washing/rinsing, is a critical step that has shown to control microbial loads, thereby reducing the risk of contamination from pathogens. While there are several commonly used wash/rinse water sanitizers, there remains significant opportunity in identifying and validating best practices for farmers. Over time, sanitizers lose efficacy due to soiled water, chemical dissipation, pH changes, etc. Identifying and validating best practices for water sanitation in postharvest washing is a critical step towards increasing the safety and sales of Massachusetts produce. This proposal specifically addresses Focus area #2: Post-harvest Food - increase the skills, productivity or safety practices of small-scale Massachusetts food producers or food processors. The long term goal of this project is the reduction of produce-related foodborne illness through improved on-farm sanitation and validation.

<P>The overall objective of this integrated extension and research project is to evaluate current wash/rinse water sanitization practices of Massachusetts produce farmers and to develop a guideline for best practices. To achieve this objective, we propose the following two research activities:
<br/>Research Activity 1 (Extension): Determine and validate the quality controls for postharvest rinse water. In this activity, we will assess and determine optimal quality controls to monitor sanitizers in rinse water. The identified controls will then be validated using a piloted farm site.
<br/>Research Activity 2 (Research): Design rapid test to validate rinse water sanitation. To validate sanitation and further reduce the risk of contaminated produce reaching a consumer, we have designed an easy to use test strip which will quantify the amount of pathogenic organisms in the produce rinse water. The test is designed to be inexpensive, easy to use, and compatible with use in a resource-limited setting. The outcome of the proposed work will identify the products used to develop extension activities used in in postharvest sanitation of produce, resulting in a reduction in instances of produce-related foodborne illness in Massachusetts. Our multidisciplinary team in extension, food safety, produce farming, local agriculture, and rapid testing enables us to successfully achieve the objectives outlined in this proposal.
RESEARCH ACTIVITIES: -R.A.1: Assess and determine optimal quality controls to monitor the chlorine in rinse water Lab simulated postharvest wash water inoculated with E.coli (K12) will test produce wash water using a variety of quality controls and determine the microbial loads of the sanitation water focusing on chlorine treatment. This research will target local cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini as they are vegetables that are commonly grown within Massachusetts and small farm operations often use postharvest dunk washing methods. Quality Controls - Below outlines some of the potential quality indicator tools that we will use for this research: *Chemical Concentration: (Free & Total Chlorine test strips), pH (Digital Tester), Water Turbidity, Digital Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP Handheld Meter,Temperature *Microbial Load: Samples of the postharvest sanitation water will be taken from the laboratory simulation dunk tank paralleling the statistical design of the quality controls. *RA- 1.2: Validate identified quality controls using piloted farm site After the completion of RA-1.1 research, validation studies will be conducted using the Umass Extension Agricultural Research station in South Deerfield. -RA- 2.1: Assess and determine rapid qualitative rinse water method using biosensor/phage technology 1. Screening of phages for selectivity 2. Immobilization of phages on magnetic nanoparticles 3. Separation of bacteria using phage immobilized magnetic particles 4.Design of lateral flow assay 5. Testing of optimized assay: The detection assay will be evaluated on bacteria samples in broth and water in order to generate a dose response curve. From these data, a "limit of detection" and "working range" will be determined. *RA- 2.2: Validate rapid method using piloted farm site: The validation tests will be conducted at the University of Massachusetts Extension Research Station, South Deerfield, MA.

Kinchla, Amanda
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
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