USDA approves UV technology for fighting food-processing bacteria
BY STEVE SMITH
MURRAY HILL, N.J.-An ultraviolet-based technology developed by Intervent-a food safety business of BOC Group (www.boc.com)-has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (www.usda.gov) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) as a solution for inactivating listeria organisms found in food processing steps.
Specifically, the UV-based sanitizer is designed to continuously kill listeria bacteria that may be on conveyer belts during food processing. The Intervent UV-light belt sanitizer uses germicidal, low-pressure UV light emitters to disrupt the microbial DNA and RNA, rendering the bacteria inactive. The device is placed on the food processing line just before packaging-the point at which contamination is most likely.
Listeria monocytogenes is found in raw foods (such as vegetables and processed meats) as well as in packaged meats and dairy products that become contaminated after processing. Animals can carry listeria without appearing ill, and thus contaminate the raw ingredients used in food processing.
The bacteria primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal disorders. More serious nervous-system symptoms can include confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions. During pregnancy, listeria infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery.
Typically, the bacteria can be killed via pasteurization and cooking, but in such products as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination can occur after the food-processing cooking step but before packaging. Risk assessment conducted by FSIS, in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov), indicates that ready-to-eat meat and poultry products are especially susceptible to listeria contamination. Unlike other pathogens, listeria is capable of growing even while at refrigerated storage temperatures during the products’ shelf life.
It is to these so-called ready-to-eat (RTE) food processors that the Intervent technology has been targeted. In fact, Intervent/BOC says the technology was developed in response to the needs of raw and RTE meat product processors. The UV-based system helps keep food contact surfaces sanitized in locations where it is not desirable to have wet chemical or water-based sanitation come in contact with foods. This helps food processors eliminate excess moisture before packaging, thereby protecting the final packaged product from possible contamination from the conveyer belt.
In independent research conducted at Iowa State Univeristy, James Dixon, PhD, of the Department of Animal Science, validated the new Intervent UV-light conveyer belt sanitizer as effective in combatting listeria.
“Producers of RTE products now have confidence that there is an effective and acknowledged means of killing listeria on food contact surfaces,” says Mark DiMaggio, BOC business manager for food safety markets.
Intervent/BOC says its technology can be easily retrofitted or customized to meet specific food processing needs. III