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Researchers study electrolyzed water as pathogen killer

By staff reporter , 19-Dec-2006

Electrolyzed water can be used to destroy pathogens like E. coli in foods such as vegetables,according to new research into the process.

Electrolyzed water has been promoted in the past as a way of reducing the amount of chemicalsneeded for cleaning in plants. It may also provide an option to vegetable producers and processors,who were hit this year by the public reaction to an E. coli outbreak due to contaminated spinach inthe US.

Joellen Feirtag, a University of Minnesota food scientist, has been experimenting withelectrolyzed water since April. He is using a water-based electrochemical activation system that disinfects, cleans food and wipes out E.coli, he said in a press release issued by the university.

"This system could be used from the farm to the retail market-for irrigation in fields, washing in processing plants and misting in grocerystores," he said. "The results we're seeing are phenomenal. It's killing all bacteria and viruses. It even kills avian flu and anthraxspores."

Electrolyzed water systems are not new. However a system originally developed by a team of Russian scientistsis unique because it produces a pH-neutral solution that will not cause deterioration or off-flavors when sprayed on food,Feirtag stated. The system is also environmentally friendly as its only outputs are water and salt.

Feirtag sees great potential for the system and is working to get it into the food industry. A few Minnesota companies are already usingthe system as a test. The solution can be sprayed directly onto foods such as vegetables, destroying bacteria likeE. coli.

Earlier this year FoodProductionDaily.com reported on EAU Technologies, a US company has made inroads in bringing its electrolysed water technology to market as a replacement for chemical cleaners.

EAU has said its electrolyzed oxidative water technology can replace many of the traditional methods in the processing sector now used to clean, disinfect, hydrate and moisturise foods.The non-toxic water cuts down on existing bacteria, virus and mold proliferation. Special generators create acidic and alkaline fluids with the cleaning and sanitising properties.

The water eliminates pathogens in processing plants by treating not only surface contamination but also the plant and animal foods directly.

EAU has been testing the water production technology companies such as Tyson Foods, Whole Foods Market and Super Saver and Water Sciences.

EAU is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration for approval to use its disinfecting products along the entire food chain process for fruits and vegetables.