Two food processing companies, one in meat and one in vegetables, are both looking for chemical-free or “clean” solutions to improve shelf life and the safety of their food products.
Exceldor, a poultry cooperative and processor, is seeking to increase the shelf life of its poultry products, which would reduce food waste and enable the company to supply markets further afield. Foodborne
pathogens can lead to illness if there are malpractices in handling, cooking or post-cooking storage of poultry products.
Similarly, Bonduelle, one of North America’s largest fruit and vegetable processors, is looking for antibacterial strategies to protect their processed vegetable products against contamination by
pathogens like listeria.
The companies are collaborating on a research project with scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada’s Food Research and Development Centre in St- Hyacinthe, Quebec to look at biofilms – thin, films of bacteria that adhere to a surface and can be difficult to remove even with chemical intervention.
Specifically, they are hoping they can identify and develop a biofilm that could prevent or destroy listeria or spoilage organisms by providing a hostile environment for them.
“We have the same approach but different outcomes – it is challenging to avoid any presence of biofilm as it is always present in some extent in a production environment,” explains Bonduelle Americas R&D Director Louis Falardeau. “What if, instead of trying to remove or destroy this biofilm, we could form a “good one” that would prevent the “bad ones” from forming?”
AAFC research scientist Tony Savard and his team began with sampling processing lines in both companies to establish a baseline of the different strains of microorganisms that can be found in those environments. The next step involves testing different microflora for their ability to prevent growth of listeria and spoilage bacteria.
“Our goal at the end of the project is to have a kind of “recipe” for a biofilm that is effective against listeria and spoilage bacteria that we can take from the lab to test in real-life, processing plant environments,” adds Falardeau. “We are looking at two ways to address microbiological problems – prevent and destroy. If this technology works, it will be a great innovation.”
Why is this innovation important?
FOOD SAFETY: Listeria is a leading cause of foodborne illness in humans and this technology would help minimize occurrences by improving the safety of processed poultry and vegetable products.
SUSTAINABILITY: Reducing the presence of spoilage bacteria will reduce food waste by improving shelf-life of poultry products and ensuring frozen vegetable products are listeria-free.
CONSUMER DEMAND: Food and beverage processors are looking for clean, natural and chemical-free solutions to boost food safety so they can meet growing consumer demand for clean labels and natural food products.
What does this project mean to Canada’s food processing industry?
This technology will help food and beverage processors improve the safety and shelf life of their products
using a natural solution to prevent listeria and spoilage bacteria that will also satisfy consumer demand for clean label food products. It also has applicability to other pathogens that will be useful across the food and beverage processing sector.
About Exceldor Cooperative
Exceldor is a poultry sector cooperative based in Lévis, Quebec. It has plants at Saint-Anselme, Saint-Damase, Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, and Saint-Agapit in Quebec, in Hanover, Ontario and in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as well as a distribution centre in Beloeil, Quebec. The cooperative markets its products under several brands, including Exceldor, Butterball, Granny’s, and Lacroix. Every year, Exceldor processes in excess of 185 million kilograms of chicken and turkey for the retail, food service, and secondary processing markets at its plants. www.exceldor.ca
The French family-run Bonduelle Group is one of the largest global fruit and vegetable processors with markets in over 100 countries and more than 50 processing facilities worldwide. Bonduelle’s Canadian presence includes offices in Quebec and Ontario, and four processing plants in Quebec, three in Ontario, and one in Alberta, where they make product for national and private label brands.
About the project team
Dr. Tony Savard is a research scientist in food microbiology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Food Research Development Centre in St-Hyacinthe. He holds a BSc and a PhD in Microbiology and an MSc in Neurophysiology, all from Université de Sherbrooke.