Contamination by microorganisms is a critical problem in many sectors of the food industry. Pathogenic microorganisms such as Escherischia coli (e.g. EHEC), salmonella, listeria, and mold and the spread of multi-resistant strains pose a substantial health risk to the consumer. One example of this is the massive EHEC epidemic in the year 2001 with 3800 cases and 53 deaths nationwide in Germany, caused by contaminated fenugreek seeds [BfR 2011].
The application of innovative plasma technology may facilitate the efficient disinfection of surfaces and thus an increase in microbiological safety.
Plasmas are ionized gases which are used in the medical, pharmaceutical, and food industries for the quick disinfection of materials and packaging. Plasma-based processes, by means of nonthermal inactivation of microorganisms, also have the potential to make foodstuffs safer and thus to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks.
Since plasma's microbicidal effects are caused by a multitude of components, it is effective against a broad spectrum of microorganisms and, as opposed to chemical and thermal processes, products are treated gently and no residue is left behind.
Through the application of plasma sources in production processes, economic losses can be reduced or even avoided altogether. Thus, product safety and consumer confidence are increased. The corresponding lengthening of the minimum shelf-life brings economic benefits for production and handling.