Illinois Tech Institute for Food Safety and Health Researchers to Present at IFT 2018

Director for the Center for Nutrition Research Britt Burton-Freeman and Research Assistant Professor Kaiping Deng will discuss their research into the evaluation of inactivating virus and bacteria on raspberries using sanitizer spray at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Conference in Chicago.

Known as a superfood, raspberries contain powerful antioxidants and consumer demand for the berry continues to surge. However, like other fresh produce, raspberries can be exposed to various contamination sources such as dirty irrigation water, soil, unclean equipment, ill field workers and insanitary transportation. Foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls have been associated with produce contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms including norovirus, hepatitis A virus and parasites. Although no incident of bacterial contamination on raspberries has been reported in the U.S., prevention is key.

The raspberry industry has various preventative controls in place to prevent contamination, including the use of chlorine spray as a control measure before conveying fresh raspberries into Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) units. However, the efficacy of sanitizer spray treatment to inactivate pathogens on raspberries remains unclear. Research led by Deng and Burton-Freeman was designed to test efficacy of sanitizers. To do this, they constructed a lab-scale spray bar device to simulate industrial settings.

The results showed that even though spray treatment had minimal effect on bacteria or virus reduction from raspberries, sanitizer peroxyacetic acid (PAA) was able to continuously decrease norovirus and L. monocytogenes during the frozen storage after a spray treatment. Comparison of spray treatment and submerging wash implied that rotating the fruits when passing under the spray bar may be important to ensure the entire fruit surface is being exposed to the sanitizer spray. The findings suggest that PAA could contribute to raspberry post-harvest sanitation, and minimizing the risk of pathogen exposure in the field during harvest and prior to entering IQF is critical.

The project is supported by the National Processed Raspberry Council, and the findings will be presented during the IFT18 Annual Conference July 15-18 at McCormick Place in Chicago. The event attracts more than 23,000 attendees representing food science professionals from more than 90 countries. Since 1939, IFT has been advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system by creating a dynamic forum to collaborate, learn, and grow, transforming scientific knowledge into innovative solutions for the benefit of people around the world.