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Ozone Research: Food and Water Purification

Ozone Technologies for Fresh-Cut Produce1,2

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The fresh-cut produce industry is a high-growth market segment that faces the challenge of short shelf life with its value added products. Typical end of shelf life indicators are increased product liquid purge and microbial activity resulting in off-odor development. These changes render the product unacceptable to consumers, resulting in costly "shrink".

Ozone has been shown to significantly enhance the quality and shelf life of fresh-cut produce. In June, 2001, FDA granted ozone GRAS status as a anti-microbial agent. This has opened the door to the use of ozone as an alternative to traditional anti-microbial agents ( such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or organic acids ) for sanitizing fresh-cut produce.

DANBURY, Conn., June 29, 20043

Praxair, Inc. (NYSE: PX) confirmed today that its NatureWash™ ozonated water wash and dry system for fresh-cut fruit delivers improved shelf life compared to conventional disinfection methods such as chlorine treatment. Commercial production of fresh-cut fruit and extensive laboratory testing at Praxair’s Food Technology Center achieves a greater than 90 percent reduction of yeast, mold and spoilage bacteria. The NatureWash disinfection system extends the shelf life of products such as fresh-cut watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries in a range from 30 percent to 100 percent. The improvement versus chlorine treatment is even more pronounced at elevated storage temperatures that simulate temperature abuse. Extended shelf life is an important component for improved profitability in the $11 billion U.S. fresh-cut produce market.

The Praxair® NatureWash™ system was first commercialized at Strickland Produce, Nashville, Tennessee, for the treating of fresh-cut fruit. "I like this technology because it applies precise concentrations of ozone in the wash water. The operating parameters are preset and the whole process is computer controlled," commented Walter Strickland, president of Strickland Produce. "The NatureWash system has been in our facility since last year. We find that the improved shelf life, better overall quality and consistent results are superb." Strickland Produce processes fresh-cut produce, packaged salads and salsa. They are a pioneering company in the use of ozone-processing technology to wash fresh-cut fruit and vegetables. Mr. Strickland is a past chairman of the board for the International Fresh-cut Produce Association and currently a member of the board of directors for the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association.

"Ozone is a more powerful disinfectant and sanitizer than chlorine," said Praxair's Rich Jarrett, director of marketing for Food & Beverage, Danbury, Connecticut, who will lead global commercialization of the lettuce-washing product. "Not only does it save customers money compared to current washing systems, but it contributes to brighter color and longer shelf life. Ozone also is better for the environment because it eliminates residual chlorine in process water and wastewater, in addition to reducing overall water use," he added.

The idea for the ozone-washing process began with Development Associate Dr. Liangji Xu in Burr Ridge, who began doing the laboratory research two-and-a-half years ago. "Redi-Cut brought in all kinds of vegetables - lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery - and we told them we'd build a unit that would provide maximum ozone coverage, then remove the excess water and ozone," Xu said. "They didn't believe us, but we began experimenting with 'premium-cut' lettuce, which one of their customers wanted to substitute for vacuum-packed, shredded lettuce."1

The research paid off, and Xu and Development Associates Rick Gaber and Terry Traeder built the first prototype for Redi-Cut. Development Associate Bill Blumthal led the team in designing and building the commercial-size, vegetable-washing system in-house at Burr Ridge.4


Bibliography and References

1 The staff of oxygenie.com is not affiliated with Praxair Inc.

2 Text is from an abstract submitted by Liangj Xu, PhD., and Armand Paradis, MS., of Praxair, Inc:

Ozone IV: Appications of Ozone as an antimicrobial agent in the food and agricultural industries
March 2-4, 2005.

3 From a news and press release issued by Praxiar, Inc., in June 2004:

4 From a news and press release issued by Praxiar, Inc., in June 2004:

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