News update:May 12, 2010

New development might replace chlorine wash

University of Georgia (US) researchers have developed an effective technology for reducing contamination of dangerous bacteria on food that even could replace the current chlorine treatment.

The new technology, which has commercial application for the produce, poultry, meat and egg processing industries, is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., which has filed a patent application on the new technology.

The new antimicrobial wash rapidly kills Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 on foods ranging from fragile lettuce to tomatoes, fruits, poultry products and meats.

It is made from inexpensive and readily available ingredients that are recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The new antimicrobial technology, developed by director of UGA's Centre for Food Safety Michael Doyle and researcher Tong Zhao, uses a combination of ingredients that kills bacteria within one to five minutes from application.

It can be used as a spray and immersion solution, and its concentration can be adjusted for treatment of fragile foods such as leafy produce, more robust foods such as poultry, or food preparation equipment and food transportation vehicles.

Replacing chlorine wash
Currently, a chlorine wash is frequently used in a variety of ways to reduce harmful bacteria levels on vegetables, fruits and poultry, but because of chlorine's sensitivity to food components and extraneous materials released in chlorinated water treatments, many bacteria survive.

Chlorine is toxic at high concentrations, may produce off-flavours and undesirable appearance of certain food products, and it can only be used in conjunction with specialized equipment and trained personnel. In addition, chlorine may be harmful to the environment.

According to the new technology is effective, safe for consumers and food processing plant workers, and does not affect the appearance or quality of the product. It may actually extend the shelf-life of some types of produce.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US alone food borne pathogens are responsible for 76 million illnesses every year.

Of the people affected by those illnesses, 300,000 are hospitalized and more than 5,000 die.

Related website: University of Georgia

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