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Food Microbiology
Vol. 46, 2015; Pages: 479–484

Atmospheric cold plasma inactivation of aerobic microorganisms on blueberries and effects on quality attributes

Alison Lacombe, Brendan A. Niemira, Joshua B. Gurtler, Xuetong Fan, Joseph Sites, Glenn Boyd, Haiqiang Chen

Food Safety and Intervention Technology Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, USA.

Abstract

Cold plasma (CP) is a novel nonthermal technology, potentially useful in food processing settings. Berries were treated with atmospheric CP for 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, or 120 s at a working distance of 7.5 cm with a mixture of 4 cubic feet/minute (cfm) of CP jet and 7 cfm of ambient air. Blueberries were sampled for total aerobic plate count (APC) and yeast/molds immediately after treatment and at 1, 2, and 7 days. Blueberries were also analyzed for compression firmness, surface color, and total anthocyanins immediately after each treatment. All treatments with CP significantly (P < 0.05) reduced APC after exposure, with reductions ranging from 0.8 to 1.6 log CFU/g and 1.5 to 2.0 log CFU/g compared to the control after 1 and 7 days, respectively. Treatments longer than 60 s resulted in significant reductions in firmness, although it was demonstrated that collisions between the berries and the container contributed significantly to softening. A significant reduction in anthocyanins was observed after 90 s. The surface color measurements were significantly impacted after 120 s for the L* and a* values and 45 s for the b* values. CP can inactivate microorganisms on blueberries and could be optimized to improve the safety and quality of produce.

Keywords: Cold plasma; Blueberry; Microflora; Storage; Quality; Sensory attributes.


 
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