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E-beam food coming to grocery stores.

In 1865, French chemist Louis Pasteur introduced the world to pasteurization.

In 2000, U.S. consumers will be introduced to a new kind of pasteurization developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), Iowa State University and Natick Army Laboratory. The technology destroys bacteria without changing product composition, flavor or nutritional value. However, this cold pasteurization is different in that it uses electron beam (E-beam) technology, is fast, requires no heat and destroys E. coli O157:H7.

Since 1995, MU food science professor Nan Unklesbaym has been the principal food scientist for developing E-beam technology. Engineering professor Randy Curry brought a high-powered accelerator to MU that year. The accelerator is a type of cathode ray tube similar to that found in a television set.

In the 1980s, Curry developed similar devices for President Reagan's "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative With engineering professors Kenneth Unklesbay and Tom Clevenger, Curry developed and refined the process.

Once the linear accelerator is activated, electrons are accelerated down a tube creating an E-beam. When the beam hits E. coli, it interacts with the microbe's DNA and deactivates it.

"The whole process takes only a few seconds," Nan Unklesbay says.

In February, two U.S. meat processors will offer frozen hamburger patties treated with E-beams. Processing will be at a new, $6 million plant in Iowa City, Iowa, built by The Titan Corp., which manufactures the accelerators. A cost increase of 3 to 7 cents per pound is expected.

The process is limited to homogenized and liquid products of uniform shape that ensure even distribution of electrons. The MU team hopes to improve the technology so it may be used on items of varied shapes.
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Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Geographic Code:1U4MO
Date:Jan 1, 2000
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