Category Archives: Food Technology

Research – Nanocrystals that eradicate bacteria biofilm

Science Daily

The COVID-19 pandemic is raising fears of new pathogens such as new viruses or drug-resistant bacteria. To this, a Korean research team has recently drawn attention for developing the technology for removing antibiotic-resistant bacteria by controlling the surface texture of nanomaterials.

A joint research team from POSTECH and UNIST has introduced mixed-FeCo-oxide-based surface-textured nanostructures (MTex) as highly efficient magneto-catalytic platform in the international journal Nano Letters. The team consisted of professors In Su Lee and Amit Kumar with Dr. Nitee Kumari of POSTECH’s Department of Chemistry and Professor Yoon-Kyung Cho and Dr. Sumit Kumar of UNIST’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

First, the researchers synthesized smooth surface nanocrystals in which various metal ions were wrapped in an organic polymer shell and heated them at a very high temperature. While annealing the polymer shell, a high-temperature solid-state chemical reaction induced mixing of other metal ions on the nanocrystal surface, creating a number of few-nm-sized branches and holes on it. This unique surface texture was found to catalyze a chemical reaction that produced reactive oxygen species (ROS) that kills the bacteria. It was also confirmed to be highly magnetic and easily attracted toward the external magnetic field. The team had discovered a synthetic strategy for converting normal nanocrystals without surface features into highly functional mixed-metal-oxide nanocrystals.

Research – Bacteria Broadly-Resistant to Last Resort Antibiotics Detected in Commercial Chicken Farms


Resistance to last resort antibiotics in bacteria is an emerging threat to human and animal health. It is important to identify the source of these antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria that are resistant to clinically important antibiotics and evaluate their potential transfer among bacteria. The objectives of this study were to (i) detect bacteria resistant to colistin, carbapenems, and β-lactams in commercial poultry farms, (ii) characterize phylogenetic and virulence markers of E. coli isolates to potentiate virulence risk, and (iii) assess potential transfer of AMR from these isolates via conjugation. Ceca contents from laying hens from conventional cage (CC) and cage-free (CF) farms at three maturity stages were randomly sampled and screened for extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter (CRA), and colistin resistant Escherichia coli (CRE) using CHROMagar™ selective media. We found a wide-spread abundance of CRE in both CC and CF hens across all three maturity stages. Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli phylogenetic groups B2 and D, as well as plasmidic virulence markers iss and iutA, were widely associated with AMR E. coli isolates. ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae were uniquely detected in the early lay period of both CC and CF, while multidrug resistant (MDR) Acinetobacter were found in peak and late lay periods of both CC and CF. CRA was detected in CF hens only. blaCMY was detected in ESBL-producing E. coli in CC and CF and MDR Acinetobacter spp. in CC. Finally, the blaCMY was shown to be transferrable via an IncK/B plasmid in CC. The presence of MDR to the last-resort antibiotics that are transferable between bacteria in food-producing animals is alarming and warrants studies to develop strategies for their mitigation in the environment. View Full-Text

Research – Possibility, duration, and molecular predictors of sanitizer tolerance in Listeria monocytogenes

Centre For Produce Safety


Due to concerns over bacterial tolerance to sanitizers, FDA and FSIS recommend rotating sanitizers in RTE food processing facilities to better control foodborne pathogens, in particular, Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). These recommendations are nonbinding; whether Lm develops tolerance to common sanitizers remains
inconclusive and debated. Even if Lm develops tolerance through sub-lethal exposure to sanitizers, how long and how strong the tolerance can last should be considered in determining whether sanitizer rotation is needed and how often it should be applied. Lack of consensus and quantitative data on possibility and duration of sanitizer tolerance creates confusions and dilemmas, especially when sanitizer rotation presents considerable challenges in training, compliance, and cost control to the industry. This proposal describes studies to help settle the debate and fill critical knowledge gaps regarding Lm tolerance to chlorine and quaternary ammonium compounds. We will measure residual sanitizer levels in produce processing facilities. We will perform laboratory assays to investigate tolerance development and persistence. We will explore machine-learning-aided tolerance prediction and identify evolutionary signals (or lack thereof) of tolerance development from whole genome sequencing data. Our results will provide the industry and regulators with scientific evidence for substantiating, better implementing, or justifiably shelving sanitizer rotational programs.

Technical Abstract

There is still no scientific consensus on whether Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) develops sanitizer tolerance. We hypothesize that development of two types of sanitizer tolerance may occur in Lm. First, short-term adaptation to sub-lethal levels of sanitizers induces acquired tolerance, which is transient and not hereditary. Second, long- term selection by sanitizers causes intrinsic tolerance, which is established in Lm populations by evolutionary changes to Lm genomes. To help settle the debate, we will test our hypothesis by distinguishing and investigating both types of tolerance in Lm using chlorine and a quaternary ammonium compound as example sanitizers.

In this study, we will survey residual sanitizer levels in a leafy green and a tomato processing facilities to evaluate if laboratory-derived sanitizer levels optimal for tolerance development are relevant to produce processors. We will assess the possibility of acquired tolerance by measuring the difference in minimum inhibition concentrations (MIC) before and after sanitizer adaptation. We will study how different sanitizer levels and exposure time affect the development of acquired tolerance, including how long the tolerance can last after exposure to sanitizers. We will explore the mechanisms behind the development of acquired sanitizer tolerance by characterizing temporal shifts in Lm transcriptome throughout the duration of the tolerance.

We will assess intrinsic tolerance in a collection of 200-300 strategically selected Lm strains using high-throughput growth kinetics assays. We will search for evolutionary evidence that suggests the development of intrinsic tolerance in recent history by analyzing whole genome sequencing (WGS) data of these strains. We
will build a machine-learning classifier to predict tolerance levels and identify key tolerance predictors from WGS.

This research will provide valuable prerequisite information for determining if sanitizer rotation is necessary for preventing the development of Lm tolerance to sanitizers. Scientific data from the project will also help optimize sanitation practices to mitigate tolerance development and determine frequency for sanitizer rotation if rotation is needed.

Research – Pulsed ultraviolet light technology to improve egg safety, help poultry industry

Science Daily

Salmonella Eggs Food Poisoning Food Safety

Pulsed ultraviolet light can be an effective alternative to some of the antimicrobial technologies now used by the poultry industry to kill pathogens on eggshells, according to Penn State researchers, who simulated production conditions to test the technology.

Researcher Paul Patterson, professor of poultry science, College of Agricultural Sciences, suggests the technology has merit for commercial application in the egg industry.

“This study is unique because it scaled-up and applied components of standard egg processing to a conveyor and sanitizing eggs in a commercial setting,” he said. “In the absence of water or other chemical sanitizers, this technology has the potential to achieve significant — equal or greater — microbial reductions than some currently available technologies.”

Every year in the United States, an average of 287 eggs are consumed per person, and more than 14.1 billion eggs are set in hatchery incubators to produce chicks destined for the egg and meat bird industries. By reducing the microbial load on eggs, foodborne illness outbreaks associated with eggs and poultry meat can be reduced while chick health is maintained.

Research – An Outbreak Investigation of Scombrotoxin Fish Poisoning Illnesses in the United States Linked to Yellowfin Tuna Imported from Vietnam – 2019

Journal of Food Protection

Scombrotoxin fish poisoning (SFP) is caused by the ingestion of certain fish species with elevated levels of histamine due to decomposition. In the fall of 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was notified of 51 SFP illnesses including two hospitalizations from 11 states through consumer complaints received by FDA’s Consumer Complaint System or directly from state partners. A case was defined as an individual who experienced a histamine-type reaction after consumption of tuna imported from Vietnam and an illness onset between August 14, 2019 and November 24, 2019. A traceback investigation was initiated at 19 points-of-service (POS) to identify a common tuna source. FDA and state partners collected a total of 34 product samples throughout the distribution chain including from a case patient’s home, POS, distributors, or at the port of entry. Samples were analyzed by sensory evaluation and/or chemical testing for the presence of histamine. Cases reported exposure to tuna imported from Vietnam. The traceback investigation identified two Vietnamese firms as the sources of the tuna. Twenty-nine samples were confirmed as decomposed by sensory evaluation and/or positive for the presence of elevated levels of histamine by chemical testing. Both Vietnamese firms were placed on Import Alert. Seven U.S. firms and one Vietnamese firm initiated voluntary recalls. FDA released public communication naming the U.S. importers to help suppliers and distributors to identify the product and as a result, effectuate the foreign firm’s recall. This SFP outbreak investigation highlights the complexities of the federal outbreak response, specifically related to imported food. Imported foods present cultural considerations that need to be addressed during outbreak response when timing is critical. Furthermore, collaborating with countries where confidentiality agreements are not in place can limit information sharing and the speed of public health response efforts.

Research – Validation of simulated commercial manufacturing of flour tortillas to control Salmonella contamination

Wiley Online


This study validated a typical batch commercial flour tortilla cooking process against Salmonella contamination. Tortilla dough prepared from flour inoculated with a 7‐serovar Salmonella cocktail was pressed in a dough press (preset at 200 °F [93.3°C]) for 3 s, then heated on a griddle (preheated to 221.1°C [430 °F]) for 30, 45 or 60 s on each side, followed by ~8 min of ambient air cooling. The maximum internal temperature of tortillas during cooking was >97°C for all cooking times. The Salmonella counts in tortillas decreased >6‐log at all cooking times; however, tortillas cooked for 30 and 45 s had an undercooked appearance. The water activity and pH of cooked tortillas after 60 s of heating on both sides followed by cooling were 0.934 and 6.62, respectively. The D‐values of the Salmonella cocktail in raw tortilla dough were 22.2, 13.4, and 4.6 min at 55, 58, and 61°C, respectively, and the z‐value was 8.9°C.

Research – Influence of Light and Water Activity on Growth and Mycotoxin Formation of Selected Isolates of Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus



Image CDC

Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus are the main causes of aflatoxin contamination in various foods, particularly grains, as they can thrive in environments with lower water activity and higher temperatures. The growth of Aspergillus and the formation of the mycotoxins aflatoxin and cyclopiazonic acid are strongly influenced by environmental stimuli and can be reduced by modulating parameters such as water activity, pH, temperature and light during the storage. This study has two objectives—on the one hand, to assess how global warming and an increase in exposure to sunlight affect growth and mycotoxin formation, and on the other hand, how the findings from these experiments can be used to reduce fungal growth and mycotoxin formation in stored foods. Using growth substrates with two different water activities (aw 0.95, aw 0.98), together with a light incubation device consisting of different chambers equipped with diodes emitting visible light of five different wavelengths (455 nm, 470 nm, 530 nm, 590 nm, 627 nm) plus white light, we analyzed the growth and mycotoxin formation of selected Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus isolates. It was shown that light with a wavelength of 455/470 nm alone, but especially in combination with a lower water activity of aw 0.95, leads to a significant reduction in growth and mycotoxin formation, which was accompanied by reduced transcriptional activity of the responsible mycotoxin biosynthetic genes. Therefore, these results can be used to significantly reduce the growth and the mycotoxin formation of the analyzed fungi during storage and to estimate the trend of fungal infestation by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus in water activity- and light exposure-equivalent climate change scenarios. Mycotoxin-producing aspergilli can be effective and sustainably inhibited using a combination of short-wave light and lowered water activity in the substrate. A higher annual mean temperature accompanying climate change may lead to an increased spread of aflatoxin-producing fungi in areas that were previously too cold for them. On the other hand, there will be regions in the world where contamination with aflatoxin-producing fungi will be reduced due to increased drought and sun exposure.

Research – Investigation and Follow-Up of a Staphylococcal Food Poisoning Outbreak Linked to the Consumption of Traditional Hand-Crafted Alm Cheese



Image CDC

Staphylococcal food poisoning (SFP) is one of the most important foodborne diseases. This work describes a SFP event linked to the consumption of alm cheese and involved three people belonging to the same family. Leftovers of the consumed cheese, samples from the grocery store and the producing alm were collected and tested for Coagulase positive staphylococci (CPS) enumeration and for the presence of staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs). Isolates were typed with MLST, spa typing, and tested for SEs and methicillin resistance genes. An in vitro test evaluated SEs production in relation to bacterial growth. The presence of CPS and SEs was detected in all cheese samples and all isolates belonged to the same methicillin sensitive ST8/t13296 strain harbouring sedser and sej genes. The in vitro test showed the production of enterotoxins started from 105 CFU/mL. The farmer was prescribed with corrective actions that led to eradication of the contaminating strain. View Full-Text

Research – Photocatalytically Enhanced Inactivation of Internalized Pathogenic Bacteria in Fresh Produce using Ultraviolet Irradiation with Nano-titanium Dioxide

Journal of Food Protection

Once pathogens are internalized in fresh produce, they pose a challenging food safety issue since they are not effectively inactivated by conventional rinsing or sanitization. To protect food safety and public health, the objectives were to examine internalized levels of foodborne pathogens in different types of fresh produce and to investigate the effectiveness of photocatalytically enhanced inactivation of internalized pathogens in fresh produce using UV irradiation with titanium dioxide (TiO 2 ). For this, green fluorescent protein-labeled S. Typhimurium and E. coli O157:H7 were inoculated on the leaf surface of four types of fresh produce (~10 8 CFU (colony-forming unit)/leaf) and varying concentrations of TiO 2 suspension (0.50, 0.75, 1.00, 1.25, and 1.50 µg/ml)) were applied to the surface of contaminated leaves. Depending on the nature of each vegetable, the internalized bacterial level differed (log 2 – 5 CFU/g of leaf). When UV irradiation (6,000 J/m 2 ) was applied, the internalized S. Typhimurium and E. coli levels were reduced by 0.8 – 2.4 log CFU/leaf and was with TiO 2 , the reduction was 1.1 – 3.7 log CFU/leaf. The inactivation efficiency increased as the TiO 2 concentration (up to 1.50 μg/leaf). These results indicate that the TiO 2 application enhanced the photocatalytic inactivation of internalized foodborne pathogens. The application of TiO2 would be most practical before UV irradiation and before distributing the produce. This study established a platform for future research on the inactivation of various internalized pathogens for protecting public health and scaling up fresh produce treatments by the food industry.

Research – Antimicrobial Blue Light versus Pathogenic Bacteria: Mechanism, Application in the Food Industry, Hurdle Technologies and Potential Resistance


Blue light primarily exhibits antimicrobial activity through the activation of endogenous photosensitizers, which leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species that attack components of bacterial cells. Current data show that blue light is innocuous on the skin, but may inflict photo-damage to the eyes. Laboratory measurements indicate that antimicrobial blue light has minimal effects on the sensorial and nutritional properties of foods, although future research using human panels is required to ascertain these findings. Food properties also affect the efficacy of antimicrobial blue light, with attenuation or enhancement of the bactericidal activity observed in the presence of absorptive materials (for example, proteins on meats) or photosensitizers (for example, riboflavin in milk), respectively. Blue light can also be coupled with other treatments, such as polyphenols, essential oils and organic acids. While complete resistance to blue light has not been reported, isolated evidence suggests that bacterial tolerance to blue light may occur over time, especially through gene mutations, although at a slower rate than antibiotic resistance. Future studies can aim at characterizing the amount and type of intracellular photosensitizers across bacterial species and at assessing the oxygen-independent mechanism of blue light—for example, the inactivation of spoilage bacteria in vacuum-packed meats. View Full-Text