KANNAPOLIS — Scientists at the North Carolina Research Campus are developing new ways to make organic food safer.
A team of NC State and University of Tennessee researchers received a $2 million grant from the USDA to develop a natural product that will kill germs like salmonella, listeria and E. coli.
“We’re looking at these essential-oil based sanitizers or disinfectants that can be used on produce,” said NC State professor Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie.
Those essential oils, such as cinnamon, clove and thyme, are the same ones used by ancient Egyptians. They have antimicrobial properties, but have become less popular since antibiotics were invented.
The researchers chose essential oils because they are natural and fall within the strict guidelines of fertilizers and pesticides for organic produce. But researchers say the oils would work just as well on conventionally grown produce.
In addition to increasing safety, researchers say the product could add new flavors to vegetables and boost their antioxidant power.
The researchers will begin testing the essential oils this summer and expect their project to take five years.
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