A research team at the UK Institute of Food Research (IFR) has been investigating cold atmospheric gas plasmas (CAP) as an alternative means of destroying bacterial pathogens on the surface of fresh produce.
Cold plasmas consist of highly energised and ionised gases, and as the name suggests, can be produced at room temperature. CAP treatment can destroy bacteria on a surface without affecting the quality of the product and without leaving any chemical residues.
The IFR researchers looked at the technology as an alternative to chlorine treatment, but found that its effectiveness varied depending on the type of produce. The reason for this seems to be that bacterial cells may be protected by irregularities on the surface of some fruits and by pores in the leaves of lettuce and other vegetables. Nevertheless the study concluded that the technique could be very effective, especially in combination with other mild decontamination processes.
A report of the study is published in the journal Food Microbiology and an abstract can be found here.