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Melvin Pascall, PhD

Award Name CCTS Pilot - Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Diseases
Award Date 05/01/2009

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Ware Washing in Removal of Food-borne Viruses

The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science and the Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Disease presented Melvin Pascall, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, with a Pilot Grant for his research project to study the cleaning efficiencies of warewashing protocols, including cleaning and sanitizing used for food-contact equipment and utensils by many restaurants, hotels, and other food-service industries.

Warewashing equipment typically dispenses cleaning chemicals and hot water to wash used and dirty cutlery and utensils. “Restaurants use different types of washers that range from three compartment manual sinks to small washers with racks,” Pascall said. “Then there are larger automatic conveyor belt-type washers that you will find at big restaurant chains and hotels.”

Pascall became interested in this research because it is current and data shows that many food borne illnesses are caused by cross-contamination with bacteria. However, several problems have arisen with specific viruses that were associated with food-borne illnesses on cruise ships.

“The current literature documents few studies on viruses, particularly on tableware items,” Pascall said. “Most studies only talk about bacteria.”

Although many states have adopted food sanitation codes and regulations, Pascall notes that the FDA Food Code only refers to bacteria and does not address viruses. In addition to this, the FDA conducted a survey of over 900 restaurants in 2004 and 2005 and found that there were many violations relating to food contact surface sanitization.

“Our aim is to prevent foodborne illnesses,” Pascall said. “Theoretically, viruses could be harder to get rid of than bacteria because smaller numbers will get people sick and many viruses can withstand cooking temperatures.”

Pascall is conducting a study where he and his team will contaminate typical tableware items and let them sit for approximately 1 hour with test viruses. “This is the average time that tableware items would be sitting in a restaurant after use by patrons and before cleaning,” Pascall said. “We’re looking at a worst-case scenario here, but we want to be consistent and safe.”

Pascall’s research team is then using warewashing equipment to evaluate how effective it is in eliminating the viruses.

The Food and Drug Administration has informed Pascall that they are very interested in seeing the results of this study.

“This study involves people from virology, microbiology, epidemiology, and even the veterinary school,” Pascall said. “This is an incredibly complicated study that is going to need the assistance and support of people from these various disciplines.”

By Caitlin O'Brien, Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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