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Exploring Microbiological Decontamination Strategies for Fresh Produce

Project Description

Location: Holbeach Campus

Anticipated Start Date: 1st July 2019 or as soon as possible after this date

Duration of Award: 3 years

Hours: Full-Time

Application Closing Date: Midnight on Sunday 12th of May 2019 (GMT)

Project summary

Globally, we face one of the most difficult times regarding foodborne disease outbreaks related to fresh produce, with an increase in the number of reported outbreaks associated with food of non-animal origin (FnAO) (European Food Safety Agency, (EFSA) Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ), 2013). Also the supply of fresh produce on an industrial scale has become a major challenge due to foodborne outbreaks from contaminated fresh produce increasingly reported in many parts of the world.

Physical and chemical intervention strategies have been developed for pathogen inactivation on produce for sale, however, the use of these techniques may be limited in their impact on the quality of the fresh produce. Also pathogen adhesion to the surface of the produce and internalization can limit the usefulness of the conventional processing and sanitizing methods.

Understanding of the complex biology of pathogens that contaminate and survive in the supply chain of fresh produce is just beginning to be understood. Also, due to the problem of adhesion and internationalisation of these pathogens, control strategies that help significantly reduce the likelihood of pathogen contamination and the susceptibility of fresh produce as a vehicle of transmission of pathogens are still needed: on the farm, during processing, and during packaging. (Allende & Ölmez, 2015).

This research seeks to tackle current food industry problems. Foodborne disease presents a consistent but frequently preventable threat to public health, and is responsible for an estimated 2.2 million deaths worldwide annually. The problem with fresh produce, such as lettuce and spinach, is that many people eat it fresh, so it misses the cooking step which would kill most pathogens, one reason why companies have relied on chlorine washing before sale. However the chlorine, commonly used in the agriculture industry to decontaminate fresh produce, can make foodborne pathogens undetectable according to new research.

The overall aim of this research is to review currently available and applied decontamination strategies in fresh food products, study the attachment process and internalisation of pathogens on fresh produce, review and identify effective microbial decontamination strategies at different stages of the supply chain and review the impact of different microbial decontamination strategies on antimicrobial resistance in fresh produce.

Research location

This PhD studentship will be located at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), Holbeach. NCFM is a satellite campus of the University of Lincoln and it is a major resource for the UK’s food industry with over 250 major companies accessing courses, technical services and research. Clients include the major national and global food manufacturing businesses and we collaborate with many international partners and universities.
Project time scale: From July 2019 to July 2022.

The successful candidate will receive a tax-free stipend of £14,777 per annum

Supervisors: Dr Bukola Onarinde; Mr Mark Swainson; Dr Ron Dixon
PhD candidate specification/Eligibility criteria:
All candidates must satisfy the University’s minimum doctoral entry criteria for PhD studentship and must hold a first-class BSc degree or MSc/MRes degree in Food Microbiology, Food Science or closely related science degree.

A minimum IELTS (Academic) score of 7 (or equivalent) is essential for candidates for whom English is not their first language.

Successful candidate will possess excellent communication skills and a strong problem solving skill. The candidate should be creative, diligent, resilience, enthusiasm, as well as have an interest in food microbiology and application of scientific knowledge to the food industry.

To apply

Interested candidates should submit their CV (including names of 2 academic referees), a one page covering letter and personal statement outlining their interest, academic qualification and relevant research experience to (CC: & ). The application deadline is Sunday 12th May 2019 and the interviews are planned to take place shortly after the deadline.


Applicants seeking additional information should email Dr Bukola Onarinde () to discuss the project in more details. Please quote (Advert/Job reference) in the subject of all email correspondence.

Funding Notes

This project is fully funded by the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), University of Lincoln. The studentship covers both Home/EU and international tuition fees and a stipend at the RCUK 2018/19 rate of £14,777 per annum for a total of 36 months. The studentship is open to UK, EU and International students.

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