Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Food & Beverage Analysis
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

In-Package Plasma Process Quickly, Effectively Kills Bacteria

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Exposing packaged liquids, fruits and vegetables to an electrical field for just minutes might eliminate all traces of foodborne pathogens on those foods, according to a Purdue University study.

Kevin Keener, a professor of food science, looks for new ways to kill harmful bacteria, such as E.coli and Salmonella, that contaminate foods and cause serious illnesses and deaths. His method uses electricity to generate a plasma, or ionized gas, from atmospheric gases inside the food package.

This process creates a wide variety of bacteria-killing molecules including ozone, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen peroxide and others. These molecules only exist for a few hours and then revert back to the original atmospheric gas, leaving a bacteria-free product.

In findings published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, Keener and researchers at the Dublin Institute of Technology demonstrated that sealed-package atmospheric plasma works well to kill bacteria in growth media. Their experiments showed that bacteria on these surfaces were eliminated with 20 seconds of treatment and 24 hours of exposure to the gases it creates. Keener said the cost of the process should be comparable to current chemical and heat treatments used to sanitize foods.

"Even in the most resistant bacteria-growing media, 45 seconds of treatment gave us complete elimination of the E. coli," Keener said. "Under a microscope, we saw holes forming in the cell walls of the bacteria."

Adapting the technology for liquids could allow development of portable devices to clean drinking water in areas with contamination or that lack other purification methods. It could also allow food processors to bottle juices without first heating them, a process widely used to kill bacteria that can alter products.

"This could be developed to allow you to achieve something similar to pasteurization without the heat and quality changes that occur with that process," Keener said.

In Europe, especially, new methods are being sought as alternatives to washing foods in chlorine baths.

"Chlorine water works well on hard surfaces. But there can be issues if bacteria get inside organic matter on the produce, making chlorine ineffective," Keener said.

Keener is working with researchers at Dublin Institute of Technology, National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology at Dublin City University in Ireland, and Innovació i Recerca Industrial i Sostenible (IRIS) in Spain to develop a precommercial system for larger-scale decontamination testing. After that, he would like to build a commercial system that could be used in food-processing plants.

Future research will also consider how the process affects food quality.

"Results from recent testing of E. coli bacteria in liquid suspensions demonstrated significant bacterial reductions with no heating or visual color change." Keener said. "This suggests that atmospheric cold plasma treatment may achieve a cold pasteurization process for liquid foods to extend shelf-life and improve safety."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Laser Tool Speeds up Detection of Salmonella in Food Products
Purdue University researchers have developed a laser sensor that can identify Salmonella bacteria grown from food samples about three times faster than conventional detection methods.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Device Speeds Concentration Step in Food-Pathogen Detection
Researchers have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Scientific News
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
Kitchen Utensils Can Spread Bacteria Between Foods
In a recent study researchers found that produce that contained bacteria would contaminate other produce items through the continued use of knives or graters—the bacteria would latch on to the utensils commonly found in consumers' homes and spread to the next item.
GMO Food Animals Should be Judged by Product, Not Process
In a world with a burgeoning demand for meat, milk and eggs, regulatory policies around the use of biotechnologies in agriculture need to be based on the safety and attributes of those foods rather than on the methods used to produce them, says a UC Davis animal scientist.
Acetaldehyde and Formaldehyde Content in Foods
Korean researchers have determined the content of the toxic and carcinogenic aldehydes, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, in a variety of food groups.
Increasing Vitamin D Supplementation
New study from ETH Zurich finds that elderly women should consume more vitamin D than previously recommended during the winter months.
IARC Monographs Evaluate Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat
Processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
Nanoparticles in Foods Raise Safety Questions
Nanoparticles can make foods like jawbreaker candies brighter and creamier and keep them fresh longer. But researchers are still in the dark about what the tiny additives do once inside our bodies.
Arsenic Found in Many U.S. Red Wines
A new University of Washington study that tested 65 wines from America’s top four wine-producing states — California, Washington, New York and Oregon — found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed what’s allowed in drinking water.
Viruses Join Fight Against Harmful Bacteria
Engineered viruses could combat human disease and improve food safety.
Plastic for Dinner
Roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained man-made debris according to a study from the University of California, Davis, and Hasanuddin University in Indonesia.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos