Sustainable Sanitation Technique for Postharvest Quality and Safety of Organic Fruits

The postharvest quality of small fruits is limited by fungal growth caused by spoilage organisms such as Penicillium expansum and Botrytis cinerea. Furthermore, the microbial safety of fresh produce is a common concern as highlighted by recent outbreaks caused by Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act requires growers and packers of fresh produce to adopt an efficient sanitization program to reduce microbial load in fresh produce. However, common sanitization techniques are not appropriate for some produce. For example, vigorous washing degrades the quality of some small fruits, so these fruits are manually packed without the use of water. Regulatory restrictions limit the use of chemical solutions to sanitize organic produce, and consequently, the organic industry wants safer alternatives. In this project, we will evaluate the use of ultraviolet light to sanitize organic fruits. We will investigate the efficacy of ultraviolet-C light in inactivating at least one foodborne pathogen (e.g. E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella) and one spoilage mold (e.g. Penicillium expansum, B. cinerea) on fruit surfaces such as organic cherries, raspberries and blueberries. We will also assess the physical and chemical quality of these fruits after UV treatment. This research advances the BioAg program’s mission to promote sustainable practices and enhance the quality and safety of organic produce.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 095
  • Project Status: Complete