FEB 23, 2020 1:27 PM PST

Using Cranberries and Citrus to Remove Viruses From Food

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

All types of food products can carry pathogens. Noroviruses can contaminate fresh produce and in developed nations, they are the most common cause of gastroenteritis. These viruses are also very tough to destroy and they can resist various treatments like irradiation that use cold pasteurization to rid food of parasites, insects, molds, and bacteria. During irradiation, gamma rays or X-rays are applied so that viruses will be destroyed, but in order for the treatment to be effective, the dosage must be so high that it can impact the characteristics of fresh produce.

This is a norovirus cell culture. / Credit: Monique Lacroix, INRS

Reporting in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, researchers led by Professor Monique Lacroix of the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), an edible coating has been developed that is based on citrus extract and cranberry juice. When applied to fresh produce, this coating is intended to make any noroviruses contaminating the food more sensitive to gamma irradiation. This would get rid of the viruses while maintaining the quality of the food, and posing no risk to consumers. Food like strawberries or lettuce could be sprayed with the coating, then gamma irradiated. There are polyphenols and organic acids in cranberry juice and citrus extract that can help to inhibit viral proteins and alter their activity.

"Noroviruses usually require an irradiation dose of three kilograys (kGy), but we have shown that the treatment time is reduced by half with this fruit mixture spray, which acts as a natural antimicrobial. Using these natural antimicrobials prevents cell breakdown or brown discoloration," said Lacroix.

This is the first time the citrus extract and cranberry juice have been used together as a treatment. "Both the juice and extract have the ability to remove noroviruses when used alone, but when combined with cold pasteurization in the same treatment, the fruit concentrations required are significantly lower," added Lacroix.

There is a risk of norovirus contamination both before and after food is harvested. Runoff from contaminated fields can introduce fecal matter to food, or the people that are doing the harvesting may contaminate the food they are handling.

"Unlike bacteria, noroviruses do not multiply on food. They are deposited there and remain there until a human being is infected," said the first author of the study Alexandra Gobeil, a recent master's graduate in Applied Microbiology at INRS.

The team has tested their coating on lettuce, which is known as a fragile vegetable that is very difficult to preserve. They are hopeful that the coating will be useful on a commercial scale, and will try to eventually partner with the food industry.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via INRS, Journal of Applied Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 23, 2021
Coronavirus
A Mother-to-Fetus COVID-19 Transmission Has Devastating Consequences
MAR 23, 2021
A Mother-to-Fetus COVID-19 Transmission Has Devastating Consequences
A pregnant woman infected with the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 passed the virus on to her unborn child through the placent ...
APR 15, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Portable Ebola Detector, 1000x More Sensitive Than Lab-Based Tests
APR 15, 2021
A Portable Ebola Detector, 1000x More Sensitive Than Lab-Based Tests
Duke University scientists have created a highly sensitive Ebola virus portable diagnostic device, 1000 times more sensi ...
APR 11, 2021
Microbiology
Are Gut Microbes a Solution to Malnutrition?
APR 11, 2021
Are Gut Microbes a Solution to Malnutrition?
The bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract have a big influence on our health, and they serve some important functions i ...
MAY 17, 2021
Microbiology
Bacteria Can Time Their DNA Replications by the Circadian Clock
MAY 17, 2021
Bacteria Can Time Their DNA Replications by the Circadian Clock
The circadian rhythm is the body's clock, and it influences physiology at the cellular level; it can help animals, inclu ...
MAY 23, 2021
Health & Medicine
Paronychia: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?
MAY 23, 2021
Paronychia: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?
It's one of the most common infections of the hand that nail biters are all too familiar with. Better known as a han ...
MAY 25, 2021
Microbiology
Concern Grows About Emerging H5N8 Flu Virus
MAY 25, 2021
Concern Grows About Emerging H5N8 Flu Virus
Though suspected outbreaks have been documented since 1878, the first confirmed outbreak of bird flu, a highly pathogeni ...
Loading Comments...