Although recent high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness have involved contaminated fresh produce, the most common source of harmful bacteria in food is uncooked poultry and other meat products. The bacteria responsible for most foodborne illnesses, Campylobacter and Salmonella, are found on upwards of 70 percent of chicken meat tested.
Treating raw meat products to remove pathogens before they reach a consumer’s home can reduce the risk of cross contamination during food preparation, according to senior author Dr. Jennifer Quinlan, an assistant professor in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. “If you could reduce contamination on the raw chicken, then you wouldn’t have it in the kitchen,” Quinlan said.
Past studies have shown that plasma could successfully reduce pathogens on the surface of fruits and vegetables without cooking them.
The value of using plasma “is that it is non-thermal, so there is no heat to cook or alter the way the food looks,” said lead author Brian Dirks, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dirks and Quinlan worked with researchers from the University’s Anthony J. Drexel Plasma Institute to test the use of plasma for poultry.
In the Drexel study, raw chicken samples contaminated with Salmonella enterica and Campylobacter jejuni bacteria were treated with plasma for varying periods of time. Plasma treatment eliminated or nearly eliminated bacteria in low levels from skinless chicken breast and chicken skin, and significantly reduced the level of bacteria when contamination levels were high.
The researchers also tested using plasma to treat samples of bacteria grown on agar, and demonstrated that antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria were as susceptible to plasma as the wild-type strains.
Plasma, known as the “fourth state of matter” (after solid, liquid and gas), is a high-energy, charged mixture of gaseous atoms, ions and electrons. Plasma has a wide range of potential applications including energy production and control, biomedical treatments and environmental remediation.
Quinlan described the plasma treatment of poultry in this study as “proof of concept.” Current plasma technology is expensive relative to the narrow cost margins involved in food production, and the technology is not currently being developed for processing poultry on a large scale.
If plasma technology becomes cost-effective for use in treating poultry, it may be used in conjunction with existing methods to reduce pathogens, Dirks said, and it may also help prolong the shelf-life of raw chicken if it can be honed to remove more microorganisms responsible for spoilage.
“Until these technologies are more fully developed, consumers should assume that raw poultry has pathogens on it and take care to prevent infection,” Quinlan said. “That means cooking thoroughly and making sure not to cross contaminate when handling uncooked meat and poultry.”
Quinlan holds a a Ph.D. in food microbiology from North Carolina State University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science from Rutgers University. Her research focuses on the microbiological quality and safety of food. Her ongoing work focuses on safe consumer handling of food.
The A.J. Drexel Plasma Institute recently received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to expand its plasma research.
Full citation: Dirks, B.P., Dobrynin, D., Fridman, G., Mukhn, Y., Fridman, A., & Quinlan, J.J. Treatment of Raw Poultry with Nonthermal Dielectric Barrier Discharge Plasma To Reduce Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enterica. Journal of Food Protection. DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-153.
Rachel Ewing | Newswise Science News
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy