Results

Research collaboration Beirut Arab University, University of Glasgow and UNIDO

26 October 2021

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Research & development is in action for defining the optimal conditions and technologies to decontaminate Lebanese zaatar mixtures through a partnership with the University of Glasgow and Beirut Arab University.

Dr. Ian WATSON and Dr. Nada EL DARRA conducted a research on the optimal conditions and technologies to decontaminate Spices under the project “Strengthening Job Creation and Creativity in the Agri-food sector in Lebanon through technology transfer and skills training” funded by Italy and implemented by UNIDO in partnership with the Ministry of Industry and in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon.

Zaatar (Origanum Syriacum) is a traditional edible plant with high demand within Lebanon and in the surrounding Middle Eastern countries. In the age of global trade and high safety measures; decontamination is a critical process to ensure safe Zaatar consumption by reducing the load of microorganisms. Once optimized, the decontamination of Zaatar products will facilitate export market access and international trade for Lebanese zaatar producers.

Spices generally have low moisture content and although this reduces microbial growth, their contamination have significantly contributed to food-borne infections and outbreaks. This contamination has created trade barriers when exporting the products abroad. Pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli, are commonly detected on herbs and spices. Different treatments have been used to decontaminate spices; however, most of these treatments presented some detrimental effects on the food quality. Thermal treatment of spices and herbs, including dry steam, is the most widely used technology to ensure microbiological safety. However, it can cause significant physical and chemical changes that negatively affect sensory and nutritional quality. Chemical treatment using ethylene oxide has also been used to decontaminate spices; however, its use was prohibited by an EU directive in 1991 and has been banned in a number of other countries because it is a carcinogen. Gamma irradiation has since emerged as a viable alternative and its use results in cleaner, better quality herbs and spices compared to those fumigated, yet the technique is still restricted in EU countries and not favoured by consumers. Subsequently, it is of vital socio-economic importance to investigate alternative methods to effectively decontaminate dried spices, render them safe for consumption and improve market access by maintaining the quality of the product and increasing shelf-life. With the large volume of spices consumed globally, there are obvious market gaps in deploying more favourable technology for spice decontamination and extending their shelf-life; the demonstrated system and subject of this work, demonstrates a viable and cost-effective option.

Few, if any, studies have assessed the performance of non-thermal combined systems to decontaminate spices. Therefore, the purpose of this research collaboration is to evaluate a novel, non-thermal combined technology of ozone, UV-C radiation and modulated IR light as a decontamination treatment for chilli flakes (CF), onion flakes (OF) and black pepper (BP), artificially inoculated with Escherichia coli. The system incorporates a fluidized bed that suspends and moves the chilli flakes in the region of the IR and UV energy in air. The results obtained in this work may serve as basis in developing a combined decontamination system’s approach for spice decontamination and other foods, such as powders, that can be fluidized or suspended in an air flow.

Funded by the intramural Grant of Beirut Arab University, Dr. Nada El Darra, Associate Professor of Food Safety and Technology at Beirut Arab University visited the School of Engineering of the University of Glasgow where she worked with Dr. Ian Watson, Reader in Applied Energy, at the James Watt School of Engineering, in the Systems, Power and Energy Research Division, University of Glasgow on developing and investigating the performance of the decontamination system. Both authors have considerable experience of developing decontamination systems on food, including e.g. UV, IR, ozone, chemical, microwave, laser, pulsed light and thermal methods. The findings of this decontamination system were published in highly prestigious journals.

Based on these findings, UNIDO expressed its interest to trial the prototype on decontaminating thyme and thyme mixtures. UNIDO have funded this work through a partnership with the University of Glasgow and Beirut Arab University, to research trials on decontaminating Zaatar using the prototype developed in the collaboration under the project “Strengthening Job Creation and Creativity in the Agri-food sector in Lebanon through technology transfer and skills training” funded by @Italy and implemented by UNIDO in partnership with the Ministry of Industry and in collaboration with the @? Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon.



https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844021013621

  Decontamination of Escherichia coli on dried onion flakes and black pepper using Infra-red, ultraviolet and ozone hurdle technologies - ScienceDirect

1. Introduction. Although spices generally have a low moisture content, which reduces microbial growth, their contamination has contributed significantly to food-borne infections and outbreaks (Al Bayssari et al., 2014; Banach et al., 2016).Spices have been shown to be a vehicle of chemical (mycotoxins) and microbial contamination (pathogenic bacteria like salmonella), while the actual cause ...

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844021013621

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S146685641930428X