Cold plasma decontamination of foods

Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2012:3:125-42. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-022811-101132. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


Cold plasma is a novel nonthermal food processing technology that uses energetic, reactive gases to inactivate contaminating microbes on meats, poultry, fruits, and vegetables. This flexible sanitizing method uses electricity and a carrier gas, such as air, oxygen, nitrogen, or helium; antimicrobial chemical agents are not required. The primary modes of action are due to UV light and reactive chemical products of the cold plasma ionization process. A wide array of cold plasma systems that operate at atmospheric pressures or in low pressure treatment chambers are under development. Reductions of greater than 5 logs can be obtained for pathogens such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus. Effective treatment times can range from 120 s to as little as 3 s, depending on the food treated and the processing conditions. Key limitations for cold plasma are the relatively early state of technology development, the variety and complexity of the necessary equipment, and the largely unexplored impacts of cold plasma treatment on the sensory and nutritional qualities of treated foods. Also, the antimicrobial modes of action for various cold plasma systems vary depending on the type of cold plasma generated. Optimization and scale up to commercial treatment levels require a more complete understanding of these chemical processes. Nevertheless, this area of technology shows promise and is the subject of active research to enhance efficacy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Food Preservation / economics
  • Food Preservation / methods*
  • Food Safety
  • Plasma Gases / chemistry*


  • Plasma Gases