Dirks is a Ph.D. candidate in the nutrition sciences department. His research focuses on the association of the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni with amoeba.
Quinlan is an assistant professor of nutrition sciences. Her research focuses on the microbiological quality and safety of produce, dairy and meat products in differing socioeconomic areas.
In a proof-of-concept study that was published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Protection, researchers have demonstrated that plasma can be an effective method for killing pathogens on uncooked poultry.
The most common source of harmful bacteria in food is uncooked poultry and other meat products. Campylobacter and salmonella, the two bacteria most responsible for foodborne illnesses, are found on as much as 70 percent of chicken meat tested.
“If you could reduce contamination on the raw chicken, then you wouldn’t have it in the kitchen,” says Jennifer Quinlan, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and senior author of the study.
Previous studies have shown that plasma could successfully reduce pathogens on the surface of fruits and vegetables without cooking them.
In the Drexel study, raw chicken samples contaminated with salmonella enterica and campylobacter jejuni bacteria were treated with plasma. The treatment either entirely or nearly eliminated bacteria in low levels from skinless chicken breast and chicken skin. It significantly reduced the level of bacteria when contamination levels were high.
Brian Dirks, a lead author and graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences who worked on the study with researchers from the Anthony J. Drexel Plasma Institute, says the value to using plasma is that it is “non-thermal, so there is no heat to cook or alter the way the food looks.”