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In Profile: Mindy Brashears’ Emerging Formula for Food Safety

image image Mindy Brashears has a passion for providing safer foods for consumers through new treatments to reduce food-borne pathogens. “I came back to Texas Tech not just to be in the ‘Top 10’ or ‘Top 5,’ but to have the best program in food safety,” said the professor in Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

As the recipient of millions of dollars in federal, commodity and research grants, she has made breakthrough discoveries with her research and helped develop innovative new technologies, establishing herself among the nation’s top food safety experts.

In 2006, Brashears developed a treatment shown to reduce food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli in processed beef and poultry. The treatment consists of a combination of lactic acid bacteria cultures, a “good” bacteria already found in foods like yogurt, cheeses and sausages. Researchers found that when the mixture was added to hamburger meat, Salmonella was non-detectable and the meat was unharmed after five days.

Long-Term Storage. The mixture, now sold under the name “Bovamine Meat Cultures,” is one of few post-production treatments available to protect meat and poultry during long-term storage without affecting the flavor or the shelf life of the products.

On top of her classroom duties, Brashears serves as director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech, a federal- and state-supported program dedicated to improving the safety, quality, utility and acceptance of food innovations and resultant food products.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in food technology from Texas Tech (1992), Brashears received master’s (1994) and doctorate (1997) degrees in food science from Oklahoma State University. She was an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Department of Food Science and Technology before returning to her first alma mater.

Microwave Pasteurization. Brashears’ most recent endeavor involves industry collaboration supported by the State of Texas Emerging Technology Fund to develop MicroZAP, a company that supports a microwave pasteurization technology. MicroZAP was spun off from patented technology developed through the cutting-edge food sterilization research at ICFIE.

MicroZAP uses directional microwaves delivered at varying doses and intensities in order to target disease-causing microorganisms with great precision. This new technology is helping to remove harmful pathogens in foods such as eggs and meat products without harming or changing the functional properties of the products. It also has demonstrated the ability to kill deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria (MRSA) in medical devices.

But her research doesn’t end there. Brashears and her colleagues are on the forefront of food safety research, studying hot topics including:
• Antibiotic resistance in cattle
• Minimizing microbial food safety hazards to fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables
• Pre-harvest critical control points in feed yards to prevent cross-contamination
• Impact of packing systems and temperature abuse on the quality of ground beef
• Improving hand hygiene compliance in restaurants

CONTACT: Mindy Brashears, Professor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2805 ext. 235 or mindy.brashears@ttu.edu

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