An interesting recent article (here’s the abstract) by Daniela Bermudez-Aguirre and Gustavo B. Barbosa-Canovas includes testing for both sanitation and impact on the organoleptic qualities of produce (taste, texture, color and smell). The basic finding was that ozone and UV treatment were more effective than citric acid or chlorine in killing microorganisms, but only ozone was also most effective in retaining the desirable organoleptic qualities of food.
Ozone sanitation is powerful and safe, but it also preserves the qualities of foods that make them appealing to consumers.
The Basics on the Research
The authors tested the effects of ozone, UV, chlorine and citric acid for inactivating E. coli (ATCC 11775) on carrots, tomatoes and lettuce. Exposure times ranged from 3 minutes up to 60 minutes. They report important findings including:
- Ozone and ultraviolet were most effective in disinfecting tomatoes.
- Ultraviolet affected color in the 3 evaluated products.
- Disinfection is easier to achieve on smooth surfaces than porous or rough ones.
The authors conclude that more research is needed on the “concentration, dose and processing times” of disinfectants regarding not only anti-microbial effectiveness but also the “sensory properties” of treated foods.
Quality is How the Food Affects the Consumer
A narrow, almost bureaucratic way of looking at food quality focuses on the processing goals of food safety and cost efficiency. We read about these goals in reports from around the world every day. They are obviously important because when consumers contract a food borne illness from a specific product, there are dire economic impacts.
However, there is a second goal that food processors need to keep in view: food must be pleasing to the end consumer, or it won’t be consumed, almost no matter how inexpensive it is. The economic impact of this is the difference between financial success and failure.
Ozone sanitation systems can combine safe, effective disinfection with preservation of important food qualities that consumers like. Ozone does have to compete with other sanitation methods on both cost and effectiveness, and it does. When the stakes are so high, ozone is a wise investment.