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Inactivation of foodborne microorganisms using engineered water nanostructures (EWNS)

Foodborne diseases caused by the consumption of food contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms or their toxins have very serious economic and public health consequences.
A team of US Researchers explored the effectiveness of a recently developed intervention method for inactivation of microorganisms on fresh produce, and food production surfaces. This method utilizes Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS) produced by electrospraying of water vapor. EWNS possess unique properties; they are 25 nm in diameter, remain airborne in indoor conditions for hours, contain Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and have very strong surface charge (on average 10 e/structure). Here, their efficacy in inactivating representative foodborne bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria innocua, on stainless steel surfaces and on organic tomatoes, was assessed. The inactivation was facilitated using two different exposure approaches in order to optimize the delivery of EWNS to bacteria: (1) EWNS were delivered on the surfaces by diffusion and (2) a “draw through” Electrostatic Precipitator Exposure System (EPES) was developed and characterized for EWNS delivery to surfaces.
Using the diffusion approach and an EWNS concentration of 24,000 #/cm3, the bacterial concentrations on the surfaces were reduced, depending on the bacterium and the surface type, by values ranging between 0.7 to 1.8 logs. Using the EPES approach and for an aerosol concentration of 50,000 #/cm3 at 90 min of exposure, results show a 1.4 log reduction for E. coli on organic tomato surfaces, as compared to the control (same conditions in regards to temperature and Relative Humidity). Furthermore, for L. innocua, the dose-response relationship was demonstrated and found to be a 0.7 and 1.2 logs removal at 12,000 and 23,000 #/cm3, respectively.
The results presented on Environmental Science & Technology journal indicate that this novel, chemical-free, and environmentally friendly intervention method holds potential for development and application in the food industry, as a “green” alternative to existing disinfection methods.

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