New research project to extend the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables.

8th November 2011: DIT lecturer, Dr PJ Cullen, School of Food Science and Environmental Health, has begun breakthrough research that will extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables and protect its nutritional quality.

The €2.4 million EU-funded project, entitled ‘Safebag’, aims to reduce microbes on fresh produce ensuring that technology does not affect the nutritional properties, texture or taste of the packaged fruit and vegetables.


The goal is to reduce microbial hitchhikers on fresh produce that could ultimately contribute to safety concerns or spoilage. “It’s difficult to treat fresh produce in comparison to foods such as milk where you can use heat,” says Dr Cullen, who lectures at the School of Food Science and Environmental Health. “The classical approach has been to wash the produce and typically it is washed in chlorine.”

“Our approach is to package our food inside any type of plastic packaging and then pass that package through a dielectric plasma discharge” explains Dr Cullen. “So we create and use a plasma within the bag for a very short period of time, and make active species within the bag, which inactivate the bacteria.”

The project is coordinated by IRIS in Spain and also involves the National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology, DCU along with several other international partners. Dr Kevin Keener, a visiting professor from Purdue University, is currently on sabbbatical in DIT and involved in building and optimisating the system in partership with the DIT research team.

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