BOISE, Id – As of this week, there are 109 reported cases of Listeria from cantaloupe. 21 people have died during the nationwide outbreak. Cantaloupe’s rough skin can gather all kinds of bacteria. But identifying contaminated fruit before it gets to your table isn’t easy. University of Idaho students may have a solution.
It all began with a contest - the Waste-Management Education and Research Consortium Design Competition, or WERC, for short. WERC said, find a way to test cantaloupe. So, University of Idaho senior Karina Intan took up the challenge. She and her student teammates tried to find a way to get bacteria off of cantaloupe.
Karina Intan “It had to be simple, it had to be portable and lightweight, it had to be able to not damage the rind, and it had provide an accurate result of the percent recovery of the bacteria.”
The goal was to not only dislodge but to also collect any bacteria. That way Intan could check and see if a cantaloupe was safe to eat.
Karina Intan “The purpose of this apparatus, this device, is to detect, so it’s not so much to clean, our device is to detect how severe the contamination is on the cantaloupe or if there is any contamination on the cantaloupe.”
The first thing the team thought of was a golf ball washer. You place the golf ball inside a box, and it’s brushed and washed. So using PVC pipe, nylon brushes, and silicon tubing, that’s exactly what they built, only bigger.
Karina Intan “Yes, it’s exactly a golf ball washer, just sized up.”
Intan says she hopes to market the device so farmers can use it to check their crop. The cantaloupe device won the award for simplicity and innovation at WERC.
Copyright 2011 BSPR