Brenda Zai

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.Sc.

Project: Control of Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry Production and Processing through the Application of Novel Technologies

Department: Department of Food Science (OAC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

Hearing and reading the recall notices, in recent years, has intrigued me. The complex procedures and careful thinking behind the scenes of these notices challenges stakeholders and brings all areas of the food industry together to come to a resolution. I became interested in how all these moving parts worked together to keep consumers safe from foodborne illness, allowing the food we eat to remain a safe and enjoyable part of our daily lives. There are constant advances in concepts and technology in food microbiology and I wanted to explore their place in food microbiology and how they can help in maintaining the integrity of our agri-food sector and consumer safety.

What about your research area excites you?

My opportunity to explore novel technology and apply it to food, a great part of our everyday lives, is exciting. The agri-food sector, specifically the food safety industry, already has implemented procedures to ensure consumer safety from foodborne pathogens. However, I have the opportunity to integrate new technology to further optimize the industry’s processes and introduce new ideas in the constantly developing agri-food sector.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

Hands-on work with living organisms can always pose challenges, no matter how small the organism may be. Understanding how bacteria negatively implicate food while learning the processes of how novel technology can combat these implications, introduce many moving parts that hold an interconnectedness. Understanding these links involving new technology and how to prevent transmission of foodborne pathogens requires trial and error. It never hurts to make mistakes, reflect on them with a critical perspective, and adjust your approach in the lab one, variable at a time.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

Salmonella and Campylobacter associated with poultry remain significant causes of foodborne illness within Ontario and across the globe. Both pathogens can be acquired at any point in the poultry production chain from when the egg is laid through to the point of serving. The project will develop and compare the efficacy of three novel technologies to inactivate Salmonella and Campylobacter while retaining the hatchability of eggs or retaining the quality characteristics of the raw meat and eggs. The technologies to be developed will be gas plasma, LEDs, and advanced-oxidation-process. A common feature of the three technologies is the ability to inactivate pathogens located in the protective sites that would not be accessible to standard washing and can be readily monitored as preventative controls.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

I’m an avid concert-goer where I can immerse myself in my favourite music among the energy of like minds. Outside of the lab, I love to hike and enjoy the fresh air and nice weather. When I’m inside I love putting together a jigsaw puzzle with good company.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic? 

Always celebrate and enjoy the little things in life!