Traditionally, the effects and efficiency of food surface decontamination processes, such as chlorine washing, radiation, or heating, have been evaluated by sensoric analysis and colony-forming unit (CFU) counts of surface swabs or carcass rinses. These methods suffice when determining probable consumer responses or meeting legislative contamination limits. However, in the often very costly, optimization process of a new method, more quantitative and unbiased results are invaluable. In this study, we employed a biophysical approach for the investigation of qualitative and quantitative changes in both food surface and bacteria upon surface decontamination by SonoSteam®. SonoSteam® is a recently developed method of food surface decontamination, which employs steam and ultrasound for effective heat transfer and short treatment times, resulting in significant reduction in surface bacteria. We employ differential scanning calorimetry, second harmonics generation imaging microscopy, two-photon fluorescence microscopy, and green fluorescence protein-expressing bacteria and compare our results with those obtained by traditional methods of food quality and safety evaluations. Our results show that there are no contradictions between data obtained by either approach. However, the biophysical methods draw a much more nuanced picture of the effects and efficiency of the investigated decontamination method, revealing, e.g., an exponential dose/response relationship between SonoSteam® treatment time and changes in collagen I, and a depth dependency in bacterial reduction, which points toward CFU counts overestimating total bacterial reduction. In conclusion, the biophysical methods provide a less biased, reproducible, and highly detailed system description, allowing for focused optimization and method validation.
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Campylobacter jejuni
- Escherichia coli
- Second-harmonic generation imaging microscopy
- Differential scanning calorimetry