Ozone and Food Safety
In recent years there has been an increased focus on food safety and in particular the methods used to reduce and eliminate pathogens from fresh produce. With the rise in consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, incidents of foodborne illness have also greatly increased in the US, drawing significant attention from researchers and authorities.
Traditional methods revolve around the use of chemicals such as chlorine in the sanitizing of produce, specifically in rinsing and washing. Chlorine is widely used in these processes but it has a limited effect in killing bacteria on fruit and vegetables surfaces. There is also wide concern with regards to the by-products of chlorine and its effects on health and the environment.
Ozone is becoming a popular alternative solution to traditional sanitizing agents and providing additional benefits. Ozone is an oxidizing agent, 1.5 times more powerful than chlorine and effective over a much wider spectrum of microorganisms. Ozone kills viruses and bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Listeria much faster than chlorine and other chemical agents and is free of chemical residues as it decomposes into simple oxygen.
To simplify the integration of ozone into an existing or future process, Ozonia has developed a broad range of pre-engineered and pre-fabricated injection skids to fit nearly every application.
There are many different applications in the food industry for ozone. Here are a few:
Disinfection of Process Water
Raw water can contain traces of pesticides and toxic organic compounds which when combined with chlorine can produce harmful chlorinated compounds. Process water may also become contaminated by bacteria in storage tanks or piping. In both cases, poor water quality may have an effect on the overall quality and safety of the final product. Ozone as been proven to be an effective treatment for these contaminants without the formation of by-products. Ozone has also been shown to be effective against chlorine-resistant microorganisms such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, which have caused several deaths in recent years.
Produce Washing and Rinsing
Spray and fume washing systems using ozonated water can be used to greatly reduce microbial counts on the surface of the produce. Contamination of produce arises in the field as a result of pesticides as well as during storage, transport and packaging. Ozone is particularly effective against E. Coli, the food pathogen of most concern in the food industry.
Process Water Recycling
It is estimated that more than 50 billion gallons of fresh water are used by the produce industry each year in the US. With the increasing difficulty in sourcing large quantities of water as well as wastewater treatment costs, a need exists to decrease the amount of water used. Ozone is very effective in the treatment of water for recycling as it can be used to remove color, odor, and organic load.
Ozone can be applied at low concentrations in the storage of produce to guard against mold and bacteria. One of the most important effects of ozone in storage is that it can slow the ripening process of produce, and extend the shelf life of many fruits and vegetables. Over the years many experiments have shown an increased shelf life in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including apples, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, pears, oranges, grapes, cranberries and corn.