Food poisoning is increasing throughout the EU. Since most of the microbial contamination of foods is present on the surface of foods before they are processed, the elimination or substantial reduction of pathogens from the surface of red and poultry meat and fruit and salad vegetables would significantly reduce food poisoning. Recent decontamination investigations have not achieved the degree of microbial reduction that was predicted using existing microbial death kinetic models. Accurate models of microbial death on foods during surface pasteurisation processes would be of considerable help in the development of efficient thermal decontamination systems for meat, fruit and vegetables. The development of such systems would lead, in turn, to improved food safety and quality. This project will develop and verify such models.
The prime objective of this project is to create models that predict accurately the microbial death on the surface of solid foods resulting from surface pasteurisation processes. To develop and verify these models, reliable experimental data will be produced on the microbial death observed on a variety of food surfaces, under a variety of surface pasteurisation treatments. These treatments will be carried out in equipment designed and constructed during the project, to produce a range of repeatable time-temperature cycles on food surfaces. To tune the models, understanding will be gathered from microbiological experiments use specialist techniques to quantify the effects of the microbial position, adhesion and heat tolerance distribution on their survival under the heated conditions of these tests in real time.
The major milestones are: Production of heat treatment apparatus; production of microbial death data resulting from heat treatments of surfaces; production of data on interaction between microorganisms, food and heat treatments; creation of a user-friendly, coined heat transfer and microbial death model. The models produced by the project should predict accurately the microbial death on foods under a range of surface heat treatments.