Yezhi Fu

Yezhi Fu Profile Picture
Food Science

Mentor / Lab:
Dr. Yuan Yao

Specific Research Area / Project:
Development of innovative interventions to improve microbial safety of fresh produce

Undergraduate Institution:
China Agricultural University

Research Profile:

My research interests have revolved around improving food safety, specifically the microbial safety of fresh produce. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fresh produce has been the leading source of foodborne illness, surpassing typical pathogen carriers such as meat, dairy, and seafood. Among the fresh produce popular to the consumers, cantaloupe and sprouts are mostly susceptible to pathogen contaminations and outbreaks. However, it has been a challenge to address the key factor in the contamination–the biofilms formed by foodborne pathogens are highly resistant to conventional washing and cleaning procedures. For cantaloupe, the net-like and porous surface forms a barrier for washing. For sprouts, the fragile texture of seedlings prevents aggressive cleaning operation and biofilm removal.

My Ph.D. research focuses on developing innovative interventions to improve the microbial safety of fresh produce. More specifically, I develop microparticulate-based technologies to remove pathogen biofilm from cantaloupe rind surface or to prevent the formation of biofilm on sprouts. Both hard and soft micro-particulates are used. Hard micro-particulates (e.g. inorganic minerals) are used for abrasive brushing of cantaloupe surface. When biofilm formed on cantaloupe rind surface, abrasive brushing could reduce the pathogen population on cantaloupe rind by 99.9%, while conventional sanitizers such as chlorine and peroxyacetic acid could only reduce the population by 90%. Soft micro-particulates (e.g. sodium alginate) are incorporated with naturally occurring antimicrobial to coat the alfalfa seeds, and designed to offer a prolonged release of antibacterial efficacy during the sprouting process, thus effectively preventing the biofilm formation on alfalfa sprouts. My research outcomes help establish a microparticulate-based technology platform for the reduction or prevention of pathogen biofilms, thus enhancing the food safety of fresh produce.

About Me:

Yezhi Fu About Me Picture

I got my bachelor (majoring in Food Quality and Safety) and master (Majoring in Food Engineering) degrees both at China Agricultural University, which is known for its academic reputation in the agricultural field. When I heard there was a chance to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department of Food Science at Purdue University from my master's major advisor, I was really excited and can't wait to accept the offer. Purdue is a world famous university, it's agriculture especially food science is among the top-tier across the nation and the world. Pursuing a Ph.D. degree at Purdue definitely gave me the chance to work with some of the best professors and researchers in the food science field.

When working my Ph.D. project at Purdue University, one of the memorable experience I had is visiting the local cantaloupe growers in Southwest Indiana. Purdue has an agricultural center in there, which work closely with local farmers. We visited several local cantaloupe washing facilities and got to know about the urgent needs to improve the microbial safety of fresh produce from the farmers. However, they were operating on a small scale and can't afford to install large sanitation equipment. So a cost-effective cleaning solution was preferable for them. After we had a close look at their washing lines, we came back and designed abrasive brushing, which has the potential to be compatible with their current washing lines. This experience taught me to solve down to earth problems and meet people's needs, not just do research in the laboratory.

In the future, I will continue my research in the food safety area as a faculty in a university or scientist in a research institution. I will focus on foodborne pathogen detection and new sanitizing or preservation techniques to protect microbial food safety.


  • B.J. Liska Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award (2019; Department of Food Science, Purdue University).
  • Postgraduate National Scholarship (2013; Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China).
  • Outstanding Academic Performance Scholarship (2009, 2010; China Agricultural University, Beijing, China).
  • Xizhi Education Foundation Scholarship (2009, 2010; Xizhi Education Foundation, Hong Kong, China).


  • Fu, Y., Bhunia, A.K., & Yao, Y. (In preparation). Alginate-based antimicrobial coating reduces foodborne pathogens on alfalfa seeds pre- and post-germination.
  • Fu, Y., Bhunia, A.K., & Yao, Y. (In preparation). Abrasive brushing with peroxyacetic acid reduces pathogen biofilms at cantaloupe rind surface.
  • Fu, Y., Deering, A.J., Bhunia, A.K., & Yao, Y. (2017). Pathogen biofilm formation on cantaloupe surface and its impact on the antibacterial effect of lauroyl arginate ethyl. Food microbiology, 64, 139-144.
  • Fu, Y., Deering, A.J., Bhunia, A.K., & Yao, Y. (2017). Biofilm of Escherichia coli O157: H7 on cantaloupe surface is resistant to lauroyl arginate ethyl and sodium hypochlorite. International journal of food microbiology, 260, 11-16.
  • Fu, Y., Sarkar, P., Bhunia, A.K., & Yao, Y. (2016). Delivery systems of antimicrobial compounds to food. Trends in food science & technology, 57, 165-177.
  • Fu, Y., Zhai, Z., An, H., & Hao, Y. (2014). Characterization of the cryptic plasmid pWCZ from Lactobacillus paracasei WCZ isolated from silage. Annals of microbiology, 64(2), 80

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