Food industry advisory body Campden BRI is exploring the effects of cold plasma technology on specific surfaces and microorganisms to help food manufacturers wage war on pathogens.
The UK organisation told FoodProductionDaily.com it had a rolling programme to review new technologies for food manufacturing, which was renewed every three years.
"The current new technologies for food manufacturing project runs from January 1 2013 to December 31 2015 and this year our practical evaluation is on cold plasma," Danny Bayliss, new technology specialist at Campden BRI told this site.
The project is evaluating the effectiveness of cold plasma to disinfect food pathogens on different surfaces such as steel and a conveyor belt material.
Bacteria to be treated
"The bacteria to be treated are Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus hirea and Escherichia coli [E.coli]," said Bayliss.
"The primary focus is to assess the ability of cold plasma to control microorganisms under conditions closer to factory reality. We will also look at its use in treating fresh fruit or vegetables to inactivate moulds."
Campden's focus indicates the rise in interest in cold plasma as an antimicrobial measure. A recent study by University of Glasgow researchers advocated considerable potential for cold plasma technology to eradicate pathogens in packaged food.
Fourth state of matter
Plasma is a fourth state of matter created by running an electric current through gases to form positive and negative ions. In the case of oxygen, this separates the bonds between molecules to form ozone, a well-known germicide, for example, but it can also be used in combination with other gases.
The major benefits of cold plasma technology are that it is a dry process, is effective at low temperatures and requires low energy input. In addition, when the electrical supply is switched off, gases revert to their neutral ground state, leaving no residues.
The gas species created can be altered depending on the nature of the process, meaning cold plasma can be tailored to specific applications.
Bayliss said the technology still had a long way to go before it could be commercialised for the treatment of food products. That is because researchers need to ensure there are no undesirable effects created by the interaction between the gas and the food chemistry.