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
Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences