Researchers at Mississippi State University created a coating that protects dry-curing hams from mites while meeting international requirements to protect the ozone layer, according to a study published in Journal of Meat Science.
In the past, ham mites have been controlled using methyl bromide, a substance that is food-safe but was listed in the 1989 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to phase out the use and production of substances responsible for ozone depletion.
In the study, researchers created a food-grade coating using propylene glycol, a common food preservative, which they applied to hams before beginning the aging process, which can last several months to two years. The scientists found that mites avoided the hams that had been treated with the propylene glycol coating.
The researchers are also looking for additional ways to keep foods safe, according to Tom Phillips, a professor in the university’s entomology department. “The other things we are working on are common sense, sometimes used for centuries, such as extreme temperatures—heat or cold,” he says. “We have these methods that are safe for food. I always say that necessity is the mother of adoption; when they are needed, industry will adopt these methods, and we are here to help them.”