Food Safety and Ozone: How Ozone is Becoming the Industry Standard

On February 5, 2004, the FDA wrote a letter to voice its concern to lettuce and tomato farmers about numerous E. coli outbreaks tied to those foods. Since 1996, 14 such outbreaks have been investigated. The Salinas Valley — California’s agriculture hub for food products — was being at the center of the most severe of these E. coli outbreaks.

Then in September 2006, E. coli-contaminated spinach caused 204 people to fall ill nationally, leaving 102 people hospitalized and sadly causing three deaths. The investigation that followed showed the spinach had been grown, picked, processed, and bagged in Salinas Valley, California, and the incident is now one of the most high-profile and deadly food-borne illness outbreaks in United States history. The outbreak and the resulting fallout caused many companies involved in food processing to rethink their traditional methods of keeping consumers safe.

While the numbers of those sickened by food processing applications are minuscule compared to other tragic disease outbreaks in recent years, the illnesses, deaths, and suffering caused by the food industry could have been prevented had proper sanitation methods been in place. 

In the post-COVID world, consumers are on high alert about how their food is being prepared. Experts say it’s possible the new coronavirus might linger on fruits and vegetables that have come into direct contact by a person with the virus. Food processors are once again being scrutinized by the public, and only by ensuring high-quality food sanitation can you and your business ensure food is clean and safe. Whether you’re in the food and beverage industry, or the owner of a supermarket, finding an effective antimicrobial agent is a must.

By law in the United States, every grocery store, restaurant, bar, and all other commercial food suppliers are obligated to disinfect fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods to rid them from harmful bacteria, viruses, and a host of parasitic microbes such as listeria monocytogenes before they sell the food products to consumers. Water usage by food processors is an often overlooked aspect of proper sanitation and ozonated water — a strong oxidizing agent — is proving to be one of the best, cleanest, and most environmentally friendly technologies available. Ozone technology is rapidly replacing older sanitation methods for many food processing applications. 

Chemicals such as chlorine have been traditionally used to sanitize food, particularly fruits and vegetables. But ozone-enriched water has been clearly shown to be a safer, cleaner technology. When O3 is injected to treat water, it produces ozonated water. Aqueous ozone or ozone-enriched water is made by the generation of ozone, which is then injected into the water to destroy harmful bacteria and impurities and is a proven powerful oxidizing agent.

Ozone water is changing the way we sanitize food. Let’s take a look at five reasons why ozone use is on the rise:

Benefits of Ozonation in Food Sanitizing

  1. It’s faster and better at killing microbes than chlorine.
    Ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent that is proven to eliminate bacteria faster and up to 50 times more effective than traditional disinfectants like chlorine. Ozone is also generated with onsite ozone systems, saving costs and lessening the environmental impacts of storing, transporting, and distributing chemicals.
  2. Ozone is a non-thermal way to control pathogens and microbes in food processing.
    Ozone doesn’t use heat to disinfect, making it safer for food processing and food storage handlers to use. Additionally, the use of ozone instead of thermal sanitation reduces the high electricity costs of heating.
  3. Ozone is a non-chemical alternative for treating water and sanitizing food contact surfaces. 
    Ozone has proven to be both safer for humans and better for the environment, due to it evaporating into oxygen rather than leaving chemical residues as chlorine and other traditional disinfectants do.
  4. Ozonated water can be generated onsite so no storage is required.
    Ozone can be generated through injection into water (also known as aqueous ozone) or air (gaseous ozone). This means no storing of heavy vats of chemicals, freeing up space and reducing transport costs.
  5. It leaves no residues in food or water.
    Ozone used to disinfect food leaves no residue as chlorine does. There is no change in taste or odor. And no chemical residues that are known to harm our bodies over time.

For these reasons and more ozone has in recent years, become an invaluable antimicrobial agent and tool that ensures the high quality and cleanliness of food processing and food safety in food processing industries. The benefits of ozone treatment and ozone technology include: 

  • Extending the shelf life of meat, fish, poultry, and egg products
  • Sanitizing fresh fruit and vegetables for reducing pesticide levels on fresh produce
  • Sanitizing microbe-sensitive areas (food storage rooms, prep stations)
  • Sanitizing and deodorizing food production and lab staff’s work clothes
  • Chemical-free sanitization of food-contact surfaces, including conveyors
  • Sanitizing packaging and container material 

Ozone can be used at every step of food production to help eliminate the potential for harmful contamination. Ozone is in our lives, whether we realize it not. Now it has become one of our main allies in preventing food-borne illness and bacterial infections. 

Potential concerns of ozone use

Ozonation treatments and processes are constantly developing but there are still some issues that have prevented some in the food industry from doing away with their chlorine vats.

Too low dosages of ozone may not effectively inactivate some viruses, bacteria, spores, and other unwanted pathogens. Ozonation is also, by nature, more complex than other disinfection technologies. Finally, the initial cost of installing an ozone treatment system is relatively high compared to simply dousing things in chlorine.

So what’s the verdict?

In the post-COVID-19 world, consumers are rightfully concerned about how their food or fresh produce is processed and sanitized. We can no longer afford to take chances with how we sanitize our food by using traditional methods like chlorine. Businesses and the general population both stand to benefit from adopting the most technologically advanced food sanitization methods, of which clearly, aqueous ozone or put simply: ozone water is the best-performing candidate.

Ozone is on the cusp of becoming a mainstream method for sanitation and is now a powerful tool in our arsenal to help prevent another Salinas Valley-type disaster through proper sanitation of the food we eat and the beverages we drink.

BioSure: Innovative technology built to work, and built to last

Biotek Environmental Science Ltd (BES Group) has been developing electrolytic technology to produce highly concentrated dissolved ozone and high purity hydrogen for both household and professional applications since the firm was established in 1988.

Our goal is to improve the environment that we live in by utilizing the benefits of our superior electrolytic technology. Our products are categorized into three categories and brands. Powered by BES® as an original design manufacturer, BioSure Professional® for commercial applications, and Biolux® for home.

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