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Light Source being used to decontaminate eggs

As we recognize World Food Safety Day, researchers are working on a project to ensure we have safe eggs.

Researchers are using Canada’s only synchrotron to help improve the safety of eggs and reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

Scientists with the University of Saskatchewan (USask) used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at USask to study a promising new technique for decontaminating eggs.

The problem with conventional egg decontamination processes, which use chemicals and heat, is that this process can damage the egg cuticle and shell, which are natural barriers to bacteria and help to maintain nutritional quality during storage.

The new cleaning method involves treating eggs using tiny water droplets sprayed with high-voltage electricity to decontaminate the shell. The researchers then used the CLS’s ultra-bright synchrotron light to produce highly detailed 3D scans of the eggs.

Mehdi Heydari, a postdoctoral fellow with USask’s College of Engineering said researchers found the new approach significantly reduced the amount of E.coli and Salmonella bacteria on the eggs but did not damage the cuticle and shell and preserved the food’s nutritional quality.

“We hope this new technique is added to the existing egg processing line, to ensure thorough removal of pathogens from the egg surface,” Heydari said. “This can help ensure the eggs on grocery store shelves are as safe to eat as possible.”

Heydari worked alongside other USask scientists, including principal investigator Lifeng Zhang and co-investigators Karen Schwean-Lardner and Shelley Kirychuk.

“Using this emerging, green technology would improve food safety while also lowering carbon dioxide emissions during processing,” Heydari added.

The next step for this research will be to determine how to scale up this technology for large-scale operations.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, and the Canadian Poultry Research Council were funders for the research project.

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