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Activation of hydrogen peroxide aerosol with cold plasma.

Activation of hydrogen peroxide aerosol with cold plasma.

Keep Cool and Stay Fresh

A scientist treats tomatoes with cold plasma-activated hydrogen peroxide.
ARS food technologist Xuetong Fan treats tomatoes with cold plasma-activated hydrogen peroxide aerosol. (Photo by Joseph Sites, D4784-1)

Fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential source of nutrition for humans. However, these products are sometimes at risk of contamination from pathogens and harmful microorganisms as they make their way down the supply chain.  To address this potential vulnerability, ARS researchers with the Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research Unit in Wyndmoor, PA, developed a cool new intervention technology involving the use of cold plasma and hydrogen peroxide aerosols. The scientists found that when properly applied, this combination was almost 100 percent effective in eliminating harmful microbes – such as Salmonella and Listeria – from the surfaces of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, this new process of developing hydrogen peroxide aerosols had no impact on the appearance, color, texture, or nutritional quality of the fresh produce. 

Ultimately, this new method of postharvest intervention not only increases food safety throughout the supply chain, but also improves consumer access to fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, cantaloupes, lettuce, and tomatoes.

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