After irradiation, the team tested the samples for pathogens. Their test showed modified packaging containing either pure oxygen or the nitrogen/oxygen mix increased the sensitivity of salmonella or listeria to radiation without changing the way the radiation affected the vegetables, Gomes said.
Better yet, she added, the ozone, the only byproduct that might be considered hazardous to human health, naturally coverts back to oxygen within an hour.
"So, there is no harm done at all," Gomes said "This allows the processor to irradiate the produce at lower doses and still kill the pathogens. The good thing about this is that product quality is assured."
The other widely used commercial means of removing pathogens on fresh produce is to either wash them with fresh water or use a water-bath of 200 parts per million chlorine, Gomes said. Though both treatments are better than none at all, they are not effective at completely removing the pathogens, which can hide in deep recesses or air pockets within the produce.
But the pathogens can't hide from ionizing irradiation, and unlike chlorine treatments, the process doesn't leave an aftertaste, she said.
According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, foodborne diseases cause an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year in the U.S. More information on foodborne illnesses can be found at the Family and Consumer Sciences website at http://fcs.tamu.edu/fcs_programs/2010briefs/fpm-2010-brief.pdf .
The AgriLife Research Food Safety Engineering Team began work in 2002 with a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The team is the only one in the nation doing research that focuses on accurate dose calculations and dose distribution within a variety of complex-shaped foods, such as blueberries, bagged spinach and lettuce, m
|Contact: Robert Burns|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications