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ARS Innovations for Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Foods

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock Images.

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, PA, have identified a method to improve the safety of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.

At ERRC, scientists conduct targeted fundamental and developmental research on a spectrum of areas, including chemical and microbial food preservation and processing technologies, edible films and active packaging technologies, and sustainable bioenergy and agricultural practices.

ERRC lead scientist Vijay Juneja discussed his model for improving the microbiological safety of RTE foods in this Meet the Expert video interview from the Food Safety Research Information Office at the National Agricultural Library (NAL). Due to busy lifestyles, consumers have come to rely heavily on RTE food products. These foods include minimally processed, extended shelf-life, refrigerated RTE meat and poultry products with reduced salt and do not require additional cooking. Some RTE foods are frozen and quickly microwaved for convenience.

Juneja’s models are valuable tools and are extensively used to predict the behavior of pathogens in foods, by estimating reduced heat treatment to ensure safety against pathogens in RTE foods while minimizing quality losses. The models serve as a scientific bases to establish regulatory performance standards guidelines for RTE meat or for cooling heat treated products and assist risk managers to determine food processing and handling conditions that affect the risk of foodborne illness.

Juneja’s modeling approach on the prevention of food borne outbreaks is most valuable to practices in the food industry and in commercial processing facilities, which reduce the risk of foodborne illness to the American consumers.

For more Meet the Expert videos and food safety research resources from NAL’s Food Safety Research Information Office, visit https://www.nal.usda.gov/fsrio. - By Dawanna James-Holly, Food Safety Research Information Office, National Agricultural Library

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