In-package plasma process quickly, effectively kills bacteria
Exposing packaged liquids, fruits and vegetables to an electrical field for just minutes might eliminate all traces of foodborne pathogens on those foods, according to a Purdue University study.
Kevin Keener, a professor of food science, looks for new ways to kill harmful bacteria, such as E.coli and Salmonella, that contaminate foods and cause serious illnesses and deaths. His method uses electricity to generate a plasma, or ionized gas, from atmospheric gases inside the food package. This process creates a wide variety of bacteria-killing molecules including ozone, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen peroxide and others. These molecules only exist for a few hours and then revert back to the original atmospheric gas, leaving a bacteria-free product.
Adapting the technology for liquids could allow development of portable devices to clean drinking water in areas with contamination or that lack other purification methods. It could also allow food processors to bottle juices without first heating them, a process widely used to kill bacteria that can alter products (News Release Purdue University, 16 April 2013).