Center for Produce Safety funds research on long-term pear preservation

U.S – The Center for Produce Safety has funded a two-year initiative that intends to look into how fresh pears change during storage and how this information might be applied to reduce long-term threats to food safety.

The U.S$335,000 project, spearheaded by Researchers at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the University of Georgia will look at various storage techniques to lessen food safety and spoilage concerns related to the preservation of pears over time.

The food industry uses a technique that delays the pears’ natural ripening process to provide year-round, inexpensive access to the product. Pears are kept for up to a year in bulk bins or cartons covered in paper.

In order to provide practical recommendations for further delaying spoilage without raising food safety concerns, the study’s researchers want to investigate how existing industry practices can affect food safety risk and spoilage. The suggestions might be applied to other tree fruits as well.

Alexis Hamilton, Ph.D., a co-principal investigator on the project, previously researched how long-term storage conditions may affect the safety of fresh apples in Washington state with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.

The results of the apple study shed light on how food safety hazards can change over time as a result of rotting problems.

The goal of the current study is to find out more about pears and to identify further food safety risk mitigation strategies for storing pears.

Prior to studying how the microbial populations evolve during storage, the researchers will first examine microbial communities—including yeasts, molds, and lactic acid bacteria—on the surfaces of pears.

In long-term controlled environment cold storage, the researchers will study community composition and changes that occur under two distinct storage procedures at three, six, and nine months.

To describe synergistic and antagonistic effects on fresh pears, the three most significant microorganisms will then be chosen and co-inoculated with Listeria monocytogenes under conditions relevant to the industry.

Last but not least, the researchers want to know how the most common bacteria, yeast, and mold isolates from the microbiome during storage would affect L. monocytogene’s growth and survival on whole and damaged fruit.

The use of metagenomic techniques presents intriguing prospects to close knowledge gaps and enhance food safety and quality for the industry, according to principal investigator Laura Strawn, Ph.D. of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Understanding microbial communities may lead to new relationships between spoilage organisms and pathogens that are antagonistic or synergistic.

The pear industry can use the project’s findings to improve food safety and quality by learning more about the metagenomic profiles of marketable and unmarketable pears.

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