Intense pulsed light kills 99.99999 percent of harmful bacteria in powdered food

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In Minnesota, University of Minnesota researchers are using intense pulsed light to kill bacteria in powdered foods and prevent the potentially deadly risks of consuming them. The federally-funded project created a machine that can reduce harmful bacteria contamination by up to 99.99999 percent in powdered foods.

The team places contaminated food in the machine, which tumbles the food as it is beamed with intense pulsed light. The machine uses light exposure to control oxygen and humidity levels to inactivate the bacteria.

Powdered foods, like flour and baby formula, have been recalled in recent years due to contamination by bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which can be dangerous and even fatal. Flour contamination is particularly dangerous because it can contaminate any foods that it is cooked or baked into, said David Baumler, a professor from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and a lead microbiologist for the project.