SBIR Phase I: Decontamination of Fresh Produce with Atmospheric Plasma
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
924 Corridor Park Blvd., Knoxville, TN, 37932
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will develop and test a non-thermal atmospheric plasma food processing technology to reduce microbial populations on fresh produce. The technology will reduce the risk of foodborne infections while decreasing microbial spoilage, preserving the fresh attributes and nutritional quality of the produce while avoiding the deposit of unwanted by-products. The proposed development will leverage previous research concerning the destruction of infectious agents by atmospheric plasma. In this project, a Plasma Produce Sanitizer prototype will be developed to treat pre-packaged produce. Key parameters, including plasma power and exposure time, will be varied in seeking a preliminary design and concept of operations that will yield up to 4-log reduction in microbial load without negatively impacting the food quality or shelf life. The broader/commercial impacts of this research will be realized through a reduction in the health and economic impacts associated with food borne illness. According to the USDA, foodborne illnesses account for about 1 of every 100 U.S. hospitalizations and 1 of every 500 U.S. deaths, while costing the country $6.9 billion in medical costs and lost productivity annually. While the impact has been reduced in recent years through improved detection and traceability of contaminated food, the rate of food contamination has held steady and the economic burden has shifted to the food industry in the form of increased food recalls. For example, in 2007 the California spinach industry lost close to $100 million following an E-Coli outbreak.
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