Table of Contents



Agriculture: We Can Sustain It

Socializing Agriculture

Painter of Quiet Places

An Apple a Day

Sustaining the Four Sixes

Hitting Pay Dirt


The New Face of Agriculture

The Winds of Change

Avatars Animate Agriculture

Professors in Training

Going Green

Saving Lives One Plan at a Time


Protecting Our Food

Quality Cells, Consumer Buys

Tech's New Mate

Micro ZAP

Food Saftey in Mexico


Expanding Opportunities

No Bits About It

The Family Farm Fire Man

Around the World with CASNR

Live From Texas Tech


Looking Forward

Getting Schooled

A Cotton Senstaion

Living and Learning

More Than a Trophy


Online Exclusives

Alumni Lance Barnett: Unpeeled

Agricultural Education and CommunicationDepartment Shines in 2010

CSI: Classroom Soil Investigation

Facing Nature


Healing Hooves

Parking and Partying in Style

Raider Red Meats

Standing TALL

Tech Takes Flight

West Texas Cotton Goes Global





By Holly Hunnicutt


In 2009, one of the largest food contamination scares in United States history took place. Peanut Corporation of America peanuts were tainted with salmonella, causing a massive recall.

Salmonella and other various food-borne pathogens continue to cause problems in today’s food industries. A new technology developed at Texas Tech University’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences has potential to zap those problems away.

Researchers developed a biotechnology company that specializes in food safety, MicroZAP. The company came from patented technology developed through cutting-edge food sterilization research at Texas Tech. Not only will the technology help Texas Tech reach Tier One status, but it will also help to make Texas Tech a leader in food safety technology.

“Texas Tech, in collaboration with Italian researchers, has developed a new pasteurization device that could potentially eliminate biological and or chemical substances found in food,” said Mindy Brashears, professor and director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech. “This concept uses directional microwave technology similar to advanced electron beam imaging used in medical diagnostics and cancer treatments. The technology delivers the microwaves at varying doses and intensities in order to target the disease-causing microorganisms with great precision.”

An Italian research group, ITACA NewTech, developed a novel system of using microwaves to pasteurize technology in 2000. In January 2005, ITACA reached out to Texas Tech’s research team, headed by Brashears, to assist with further development of the technology.

To explore the potential of this new technology, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences was awarded a $1.5 million Emerging Technology Fund for MicroZAP. The focus of this grant is to help researchers find new ways to grow MicroZAP into a business within the food safety industry.

“It will also help them to gain more knowledge, which will lead to safer food products in the supermarket. That will, in return, reduce the number of food-borne illnesses and lead to safer food on the dinner table,” Brashears explained.

Angela Laury, Texas Tech food science post-doctoral research associate, explained three current projects that test different ways to use the MicroZAP as a directional microwave. Researchers from the Department of Animal and Food Science are testing the MicroZAP to kill Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In this project, researchers use the MicroZAP as a washing machine to examine the effectiveness of different detergents and washing cycles for the elimination of MRSA on bed sheets and towels. Successful research will help hospitals prevent the spread of this bacterium.

Researchers also use the MicroZAP as a microwave to reduce salmonella on peanuts, jalapeno peppers, dog food and cantaloupes. The food is sterilized without cooking or damaging it. Additionally, researchers examine the feasibility of killing listeria monocytogenes, the leading cause of death among foodborne bacteria, in ready-to-eat meats and studying the reduction of E.coli and salmonella on different meat and poultry cuts. Work is still being done to determine other potential uses for the technology and what types of pathogens the device could impede or destroy.