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Bernadette O'Brien

Principal Research Officer

Research Interests

  • Automatic milking
  • Milk quality
  • Labour efficiency
  • Technologies for grazing management

Current Projects

Investigation of chlorates in foods: using the dairy industry as a transferrable knowledge model

Chlorine and chlorine based detergents are the most common approaches used to disinfect water and assist in cleaning food processing plants, including milking equipment on farms. However, there is increasing concern with regard to the occurrence of residues from disinfection by-products, including chlorate and perchlorate derived from chlorine based disinfectants. As a consequence, the EU Commission has proposed imposing a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for chlorate of 0.01 mg kg-1 of food. There is particular concern in the Irish dairy industry regarding achieving this MRL as a significant portion of the milk and dairy ingredients produced here are used in the manufacture of Infant Milk Formula, a food destined for particularly vulnerable consumers. Consequently, the Board of Ornua has recently passed a resolution to remove all chlorine based detergents from the industry. Little knowledge is available on the impact of removing chlorine based detergents and using alternative cleaning protocols on the microbiological quality of milk and subsequent food products and ingredients. This project seeks to establish the baseline levels of chlorate and perchlorate in Irish milk and dairy foods, to investigate alternative non-chlorine based cleaning protocols for food processing equipment, to elucidate the impact of water chlorination under Irish conditions on chlorate levels in water and to use the findings to equip the food industry with mitigation strategies to ensure compliance with the new proposed MRL.

Funded by DAFM. Staff: B. O’Brien, D. Gleeson, T. Beresford, E. Santillan Urquiza


B.Sc. Dairying; M.Sc.; Ph.D. (NUI)
Diploma in Rural Development (UCC)
Diploma in Social and Community Studies (UCC)