A Drexel University study by food safety researchers has found that plasma can be an effective method for killing pathogens on uncooked poultry, reducing levels of bacteria in high concentrations and eliminating bacteria in low concentrations, according to research published in the January issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

Past studies have already found that plasma, which is non-thermal and therefore does not cook or alter the way food looks, may successfully reduce pathogens on the surface of fruits and vegetables. In the Drexel study, raw chicken samples contaminated with Salmonella enterica and Campylobacter jejuni bacteria were treated with plasma. The treatment eliminated or nearly eliminated bacteria in low levels from skinless chicken breast and chicken skin and significantly reduced the level of bacteria when contamination levels were high, according to the data.

Currently, plasma technology is expensive and not being developed for processing poultry on a large scale. If it becomes cost-effective for use in treating poultry, it may be used in conjunction with existing methods to reduce pathogens, said study lead author Brian Dirks, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences, and it may also help prolong the shelf-life of raw chicken if it can be honed to remove more microorganisms responsible for spoilage.