Cutline: Tanya Mason, vice president of business development for New Leaf Food Safety Solutions, accepts the Best New Food Safety Product at the United Fresh show in May.
Correction: Tanya Mason, vice president of business development for New Leaf Food Safety Solutions, and the company were misidentified in the cutline of a photo in the Next-Gen Sanitizers story in the July issue of Fresh Cut. We regret the error and congratulate New Leaf on the award for the Best New Food Safety Product at the United Fresh show in May. For more on SmartWash, the chlorine stabiliizer from New Leaf, click here or here.
Chlorine has been the standard for wash water sanitization in the processing environment since the development of fresh-cuts. Other products, including ozone and sodium or calcium hypochlorate, also are used to some extent but not as commonly as chlorine.
But in the age of food safety, the fresh-cut industry is in need of a “next generation” sanitizer that can further reduce the chance for cross contamination in the wash flume and reduce pathogens in water with a high organic load. Three companies gave their approach to sanitizing at the fresh-cut processor learning center at the United Fresh Show in May.
FreshRinse is a new product brought about by an investment in research from Chiquita/Fresh Express. It was introduced at last year’s Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Orlando and in late May announced that its salads sold nationwide are processed using FreshRinse.
“We’ve reached an important milestone in our mission to improve world nutrition with the expansion of our revolutionary new process to wash leafy greens across our Fresh Express salad lines,” Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita chairman and CEO, said in May. “In addition to a significant improvement in food safety, our national Fresh Rinse conversion has shown improved quality and freshness as measured by sustained testing at our initial processing facility. Our continuous investments into food safety, freshness, and quality enhancement will make a positive impact on the lives of our consumers by increasing consumption of our nutritious, great tasting Fresh Express salads.”
The sanitizer is a eco-friendly, suitable for food contact and GRAS and can even be used on organic produce. It has been shown to reduce plate counts seven times better than chlorine, and attached E. coli and salmonella was nine times better. Suspended E. coli 0157:H7 and salmonella was one million times better compared to chlorine in studies conducted in-house and externally verified.
In production situations, total plate counts in wash flumes using the FreshRinse technology returned most no detectable cells, and in lettuce mix, hearts of Romaine and tender greens total plate counts returned just a few cells, said Courtney Parker, food safety and microbiology manager for Fresh Express.
The product will help Fresh Express products maintain quality throughout the shelf life as well. In temperature abuse studies, the company noted spinach product that looked good even after 16 days. In carrots, the use of FreshRinse resulted in less dehydration and less color bleaching than a chlorine solution, Parker said.
Fresh Express said it will make the technology available to the industry, although pricing and licensing fees are not yet available.
New Leaf Food Safety Solutions, Salinas, Calif., developed SmartWash for use at its parent company Taylor Farm Fresh Foods. It wasn’t developed as an antimicrobial, but as and enhancement to the wash water that makes existing antimicrobials work longer, said Jim Brennan, president of New Leaf Food Safety Solutions.
In a wash environment, less than five part per million free chlorine can result in cross contamination, and to ensure against cross contamination the wash water should be maintained at 10 ppm free chlorine. Once there is cross contamination, even rewashing the product at 50 ppm free chlorine doesn’t eliminate the pathogen from the product. So testing and maintaining free chlorine is an important part of the food safety process, Brennan said.
SmartWash adds a significant margin of safety in the processing environment, Brennan said, because it offers a 3.4 average log reduction, compared to 2.17 log reduction for chlorine alone. From a risk management perspective, a 1.5 log reduction can mitigate the outbreak potential of a pathogen contamination level by 50 times, and a 2 log reduction can completely close the field testing gap, Brennan said.
SmartWash works by helping free chlorine last longer, even in high organic loads. But there are other factors to consider in the wash environment: maintaining the level of active antimicrobials, water chemistry parameters, contact and time.
The SmartWash product is currently in use at Taylor Fresh Foods and River Ranch processing facilities, and New Leaf is working with other processors interested in the technology. It has been used to wash more than 2 billion pounds of leafy greens and vegetables, according to the company.
PurFresh is an all-natural ozone sanitizing agent that is 150 percent stronger than chlorine, said Andy Smith, vice president of products for PurFresh. It prevents decay be eliminating agents like bacteria, yeast and mold, and enhances food safety by reducing populations of foodborne pathogens, including E. coli, salmonella and listeria.
Ozone works about 3,000 times faster than chlorine, and requires fewer parts per million to do so. It can achieve four to six log reductions in a short period of time, Smith said, and has increased water utilization without the byproducts of chlorine. In 30 seconds, a 5 log reduction of E. coli can be reached, in three minutes a 4 log for listeria monocytogenes and 6 log for salmonella in 10 minutes.
Ozone has been used to sanitize for nearly 100 years, and some of its advantages include that it is GRAS, approved for organics, approved by FDA as a food additive and EPA allows the use of ozone without reporting or recordkeeping.
Smith said the PurFresh system in the wash environment can enhance food safety by killing waterborne and surface pathogens on the product, on equipment and in the wash water. It also meets HACCP requirements because the system provides automated verification and reporting of control and it helps to control water usage and disposal.
The PurFresh system is in a number of plants nationwide, and customers have noticed extended shelf life with optimum quality and water reductions by as much as 60 percent in the processing facility.
-By Scott Christie, Managing Editor
-Published in the July 2011 issue of Fresh Cut