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Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

Review

Novel disinfectants
for fresh produce
Kompal Joshia, R. Mahendrana,
K. Alagusundarama, T. Nortonb
and B.K. Tiwaric,*
a

Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology,


Thanjavur, India
b
Department of Engineering, Harper Adams
University, Newport, United Kingdom
c
Department of Food Biosciences, Teagasc Food
Research Centre, Dublin, Ireland
(Tel.: D35318059721; e-mails: brijesh.tiwari@teagasc.
ie; brijeshkumartiwari@gmail.com)
Fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables are known carriers of pathogenic microorganisms that often lead to outbreaks of food borne illnesses and public health scares.
During the processing of fresh produce strong sanitizers and
disinfectants are often required to remove the microbiological
load left behind by washing. While such sanitizers and disinfectants must be highly efficacious as an anti-microbial agent,
at the same time they must be cost effective, environmentally
friendly, non-hazardous to public health and have insignificant
effect on the nutritional and organoleptic properties of the
fresh produce. This paper reviews the efficacy of various disinfectants to reduce the microbial spoilage and to increase the
shelf life of fresh produce without compromising the quality
of the end product. Inactivation of microbes using various disinfectants and parameters governing for inactivation are
detailed. This review identifies the safest disinfectants that
inactive pathogens while maintaining the sensory quality of
fresh produce.

Introduction
The fresh produce industry continues to be one of the
most important and ever-growing sectors of the global
food market. However, fresh produce such as fruits and
vegetables are considered significant carriers of pathogenic

microorganisms leading to food borne illnesses (Olmez


&
Kretzschmar, 2009). The economic cost related to food
* Corresponding author.
0924-2244/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2013.08.008

borne illnesses in the United States alone is over 50 billion


dollars per year involving more than 48 million peoples
(Bermudez-Aguirre & Barbosa-Canovas, 2013). Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes are some of the most common microorganisms
associated with such outbreaks (Sapers, 2001). Therefore,
cleaning and disinfection is one of the major unit operations
involved in the processing of fresh products as it ensures
safety of the products to the consumer. Such operations
should be carried out without affecting quality and shelf
life of the product.
The shelf-life and microbiological quality of fresh produce is largely dependent on washing, cleaning and sanitizing. Washing of fresh produce in potable water can
effectively remove sand, soil and other debris and to
some extent reduce microbiological load from fresh fruit
and vegetables but should not be relied upon to completely
remove microorganisms. Instead, the sanitization or disinfection agents are required for removal of pathogenic and
spoilage microorganisms present on the surface of produce
to prevent further spoilage. To achieve the required level of
sanitization or disinfection the chemical used must be of
the required concentration and applied to the products for
a pre-determined time period. The efficacy of these sanitizers is then based upon their ability to reduce the microbial contamination level.
Currently the most widely used chemical disinfectant is
chlorine, and it is generally applied in a form of sodium hypochloride (NaOCl) in the fresh produce industry. NaOCl is
used widely because of its cost effectiveness and efficacy as
an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent. An active chlorine
concentration of 5e200 ppm is currently used in the fresh
produce industry for disinfection purposes. However, the
reaction of chlorine with other organic compounds in
perishable produce may lead to the formation of halogenated by-products in presence of organic matter giving
rise to toxicity concerns. A microbial and chemical risk
assessment study conducted by an expert consultation
held in Ann Arbor, USA developed a stepwise approach
to risk-benefit assessment of chlorine containing disinfectants in several food categories including fresh produce
(WHO, 2009). This expert group identified key benefits
of using NaOCl apart from a number of laboratories based
studies which demonstrated health concerns associated
with the chemical residues in green leafy vegetables and
fresh produce. The subsequent report identified an

K. Joshi et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

important gap in the data available on chlorine sanitization,


which constrained the scope of risk-benefit assessment
(WHO, 2009). This report makes it clear that new sanitizers
or technologies to disinfect fruits and vegetables should not
only be highly effective at microbial inactivation but should
at the same time maintain the sensory quality of the product
(Rico, Martin-Diana, Barat, & Barry-Ryan, 2007). Some of
the novel chemical agents that have gained interest in
recent years include chlorine dioxide, ozone, organic acids,
peroxyacetic acid, electrolyzed oxidizing water and
hydrogen peroxide. The properties of these disinfectants
are listed in Table 1. The widespread take-up of these sanitizing agents is due not only to inactivation capabilities
against various pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms
(Table 2) but also because their effect on nutritional and
organoleptic properties of fresh produce is trivial. The
main objective of this review is to evaluate novel disinfectants that reduce the microbial spoilage of fresh produce.
Some applications of novel disinfectant on fresh produce
discussed in this review are listed in Table 3.
Chemical disinfectants
Ozone
Ozone is tri-atomic oxygen formed by addition of
singlet oxygen to oxygen molecule. Ozone finds wide
application in the food industry which mainly concentrates
on surface decontamination. Ozone is a powerful antimicrobial agent that is active against bacteria, fungi, viruses,
protozoa, and microbial spores (Khadre & Yousef, 2001;
Khadre, Yousef, & Kim, 2001) relevant to fresh produce.
Efficacy against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative
bacteria and fungi is reported, as well as potential virucidal
effects (Restaino, Frampton, Hemphill, & Palnikar, 1995).
Ozone has gained GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe)
for usage because of its property of leaving no residue in
food as it is highly unstable and decomposes into oxygen
without leaving any residue in food product. Ozone is highly unstable in aqueous as well as gaseous form as it rapidly
degrades to form hydroxyl (HOe), hydroperoxy (HO2)
and superoxide radicals (O2). These radicals have high
oxidizing power leading to the oxidation of vital cellular
components. Ozone acts on the cell membranes which are
made up of phospholipids, lipopolysaccharides; it then enters inside the cell and damages the DNA and RNA of cell.
Ozone can be used as a direct food additive thus, it finds its
application in fruit juice industry. Its use has been tested on

55

many fruit juices such as apple cider, strawberry and blackberry. Ozone treatment of juices is found to achieve 5 log
reduction which is mandatory FDA requirement. Studies
show that ozone can be employed either in aqueous and
gaseous form to achieve desired microbial safety (Cullen,
Tiwari, ODonnell, & Muthukumarappan, 2009). Water
flushed with ozone is used for washing of fruits and vegetables. Minimally processed fruits and vegetables can be
treated with aqueous ozone for providing protection against
microorganisms. Ozone-containing water was found to
reduce bacterial content in shredded lettuce, blackberries,
grapes, black pepper, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes
(Kim, Yousef, & Dave, 1999; Sarig et al., 1996; Tiwari,
Muthukumarappan, ODonnell, Cullen, & Rice, 2012). A
delay in the growth of green and blue mould is reported
for ozone treated citrus fruit (Palou, Smilanick, Crisosto,
& Mansour, 2001). Microbial studies typically show a
2 log reduction of total counts and significant reductions
in spoilage and potentially pathogenic microorganisms
commonly associated with fresh produce.
Gaseous ozone can be used as a disinfectant during on
farm storage of fresh produce. Gaseous ozone is reported
to be effective against microorganism during storage was
effectively found to be used on peas and beans (Naito,
Okada, & Sakai, 1988), however change in surface colour
of some products such as peaches and carrots is reported
when treated with ozone. Ozone during storage is also
found to eliminate odour and reduce the spoilage caused
by microorganisms. Studies have shown that the effect of
ozone during storage is variable and depends on the type
of microorganism, characteristics of fresh produce and prevailing storage conditions. For example, Forney, Song, Fan,
Hildebrand, and Jordan (2003) observed a decay resistance
towards Bacillus cinerea in carrots treated with 1000 nl/l
ozone for 2 or 4 days, however they did not observe a decay
resistance towards Sclerotiorum sclerotiorum. Similarly,
Skog and Chu (2001) reported that an ozone concentration
of 0.04 ml/l has the potential to extend the storage life of
broccoli and cucumbers stored at 3  C as compared to 4  C.
Ozone washing of fruits and vegetables is also reported
to degrade pesticide residues. Wu, Luan, Lan, Hung Lo,
and Chan (2007) observed that rinsing at a dissolved ozone
concentration of 1.4 mg/L for 15 min effectively removes
27e34% of residual pesticide from vegetables. Higher
degradation of pesticides residues can be obtained with
an increase in ozone concentration but with added effect

Table 1. Properties of disinfectants.


Parameters
Boiling point
Melting point
Solubility in water
Density
Acidity
Oxidation potential (eV)

Chlorine


34.04 C
101.5  C
0.007 g/ml
3.2 g/L (at 0  C)
11.7
1.36

Chlorine dioxide


11 C
59  C
8 g/L (at 20  C)
2.757 g/L
3.0
1.57

Ozone


112 C
192  C
0.570 g/L (at 20  C)
2.144 g/L (at 0  C)
7.5
2.1

Peroxyacetic acid


107 C
Completely soluble
1.0375 g/ml
8.2
1.81

H2O2
0.43  C
150.2  C
Miscible
1.450 g/cm3 (20  C pure)
11.75
1.8

K. Joshi et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

56

Table 2. Disinfectants effect on microbial inactivation.

Bacteria
Fungus
Virus
Spores
Pesticide residue

Chlorine dioxide

Hydrogen peroxide

Peracetic acid

Ozone

Electrolyzed oxidizing water

U
e
U
U
e

U
e
U
U
e

U
e
U
U
e

U
U
U

U
Moderate
U
U
e

on end product quality (Ou-Yang, Liu, & Ying, 2004).


Ozone also helps in increasing shelf life of fruits like
apples, orange (de Oliveira Silva, Bastos, Wurlitzer, de
Jesus Barros, & Mangan, 2012) and tomatoes by delaying
the ripening of produce.
The effectiveness of ozone against microorganisms present in food systems depends on several factors, including
the amount of ozone applied, the residual ozone in the medium, various environmental factors such as medium pH,
temperature, humidity and additives (surfactants, sugars,
etc.) and the amount of organic matter surrounding the cells
(Pascual, Llorca, & Canut, 2007). Ozone has a high potential for producing better quality fresh fruits and vegetables

but specific treatment conditions must be defined for each


produce. In general there is no well-defined negative impact
of ozone on the quality of fresh produce when used in the
range of 1e5 ppm. Ozone treatments were reported to
have minor effects on anthocyanin contents in strawberries
(Perez, Sanz, Rios, Olias, & Olias, 1999) and blackberries
(Barth, Zhou, Mercier, & Payne, 1995). Anthocyanin content in blackberries stored in air and at 0.1 ppm ozone, remained stable but fluctuated in the 0.3 ppm ozone treated
samples during storage. There may be a decrease in the ascorbic acid and anthocyanin contents when a large dose of
ozone is applied to ensure microbial load reduction this is
due to the presence of direct oxidative compounds formed

Table 3. Application of disinfectant on food products.


Food product

Disinfection technique

Dose/Concentration

Salient finding/
Results

Reference

Lettuce

Electrolyzed water

6.6 log CFU/ml after 5 min

(Paola et al., 2005)

Fresh cut celery

2.7e2.9 log CFU/g

(Issa-Zacharia et al., 2011)

Contains 100 ppm of residual


chlorine at 25  C for 10 min
At 50  C

4e5 log CFU/g

(Guentzel, Liang Lam, Callan,


Emmons, & Dunham, 2008)
(Olaimat & Holley, 2012)

Radish sprouts

Acidic electrolyzed
water
Electrolyzed oxidizing
water
Alkaline electrolyzed
water and 1% citric
acid
Ozone

5% NaCl solution electrolyzed


for 10 min and 5 min exposure.
pH 5.6 for 5 min

2 ppm

1.5 log reduction

Bean sprouts
Carrots

Ozone
Ozone

2 ppm
80 mg/min for 20 min

1.8 log CFU/g


4 log reduction for mesophiles

Tomatoes

Gaseous ozone

5.2 mg/L for 15 min

2.2 log reduction

Shredded lettuce
Baby carrots
Strawberry
Cantaloupe
Cucumber

Gaseous ozone
Gaseous ozone
Chlorine dioxide
Chlorine dioxide
Chlorine dioxide

5.2 mg/L for 15 min


5.2 mg/L for 15 min
5 mg/L ClO2 gas for 10 min
5.0 mg l1 ClO2 gas
100 ppm

1.6 log reduction


2.5 log reduction
4.3e4.7 log reduction
3.6 log reduction
3.89 log CFU/g bacterial count

Lettuce
Guava
Apples
Fresh cut leek
Tomato

Chlorine dioxide
Chlorine dioxide
Chlorine dioxide
Peroxyacetic acid
Peroxyacetic acid

100 ppm
100 ppm
100 ppm
250 ppm
50 ppm

3.08 log CFU/g bacterial count


4.78 log CFU/g bacterial count
4 log CFU/g bacterial count
1.4 log CFU/g
4.5 log CFU/g

Lettuce
Fresh cut apple

Peroxyacetic acid
Hydrogen peroxide

50 ppm
20 ml/L

2.5 log CFU/g


>4 log CFU/g

Fresh cut
cantaloupes

Hydrogen peroxide

2.5% for 2 min

2.6 log CFU/g bacterial

Spinach
Shredded carrots

4 log CFU/g

(Singla, Ganguli, & Ghosh,


2011)
(Singla et al., 2011)
(Berm
udez-Aguirre &
Barbosa-Canovas, 2013)
(Singh, Singh, Bhunia, &
Stroshine, 2002)
(Singh et al., 2002)
(Singh et al., 2002)
(Mahmoud et al., 2008)
(Mahmoud et al., 2008)
(Chung, Huang, Yu, Shen,
& Chen, 2011)
(Chung et al., 2011)
(Chung et al., 2011)
(Chung et al., 2011)
(Olaimat & Holley, 2012)
(Keeratipibul, Phewpan, &
Lursinsap, 2011)
(Keeratipibul et al., 2011)
(Abadias, Alegre, Usall,
Torres, & Vi~
nas, 2011)
(Olaimat & Holley, 2012)

K. Joshi et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

as a result of ozone decomposition, these include OH,


HO2, O2, and O3. Formation and stability of these
oxidative species largely depends on storage conditions.
Chlorine dioxide
Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) exists as a gas at normal temperature (25 e30  C) and atmospheric pressure. Chlorine
dioxide has been reported for washing of fruits and vegetables and is considered as a processing aid. Like ozone, it is
another powerful oxidizing agent. One of the appreciable
physical properties of ClO2 is that it remains soluble in water and does not get hydrolyzed. It can be produced via two
different reactions: 1) reacting an acid with sodium chlorite, or 2) reacting sodium chlorite with chlorine gas

(Olmez
& Kretzschmar, 2009). Chlorine dioxide possesses
strong bactericide and virucide properties at low concentrations of 0.1 ppm (http://www.safeox.com/chlorine-dioxideclo2). With minimal contact time, it is highly effective
against many pathogenic organisms including bacterial
spores, Legionella, Tuberculosis, Listeria, Salmonella,
amoebal cysts, Giardia cysts, E. coli, and Cryptosporidium.
Importantly, chlorine dioxide is also effective against biofilm hence, bacterial regrowth is significantly retarded.
Chlorine dioxide penetrates the cell wall of microorganisms
and inhibits metabolic function. It is more efficient than
other oxidizing agent such as chlorine that just burn the surface of whatever they come in contact with. Unlike ozone
ClO2 is very stable compound. Chlorine dioxide is more
effective as it can work on range of pH making it more versatile. It has limited reactions with the water as it remains
as a true gas when dissolved in water, thus making it effective over wide pH range produce unlike chlorine. Comparatively ClO2 is highly stable and less corrosive than ozone
and chlorine. It can also remove the unwanted taste
and odour associated with food products. Chlorine
dioxide is also reported to reduce microbial populations
in dump tank and wash water (Sapers, 2001). As a disinfectant, the use of ClO2 in wash water cucumbers resulted
in less than a 90% population reduction on product
surfaces (Sapers, 2001). Chlorine dioxide vapour phase
disinfection of cut green pepper, inoculated with E. coli
O157:H7, showed to achieve about 6.45 log unit population
reduction (Sapers, 2001). Sy, Murray, Harrison, and
Beuchat (2005) tested the efficacy of gaseous chlorine
dioxide at 4.1 ppm to reduce Salmonella on different
types of fresh produce. Reductions resulting from this
treatment were 3.13e4.42 log CFU/g for fresh-cut
cabbage, 5.15e5.88 log CFU/g for fresh-cut carrots,
1.53e1.58 log CFU/g for fresh-cut lettuce, 4.21 log CFU/
apple, 4.33 log CFU/tomato, 1.94 log CFU/onion, and
3.23 log CFU/peach. Chlorine dioxide gas (ClO2) is a novel
and effective method for minimizing pathogens on fresh
produce without producing potentially harmful carcinogenic compounds (Rodgers, Cash, Siddiq, & Ryser,
2004). Washing of apples showed a 5.5 log CFU reduction
of L. monocytogenes on apple skin by treatment with

57

4.0 mg l1 ClO2 gas for 10 min. Additionally, more than


a 5 log reduction of E. coli O157:H7 on apple skin was
achieved by treatment with 7.2 mg l1 ClO2 gas for
10 min (Mahmoud, Vaidya, Corvalan, & Linton, 2008). It
has been found that the degree of inactivation by chlorine
dioxide increases as pH increases. However, an earlier
study found that the bactericidal activity of chlorine dioxide
was not affected by pH values in the range of 6.0e10.0
(Ridenour & Ingols, 1947). Similar to chlorine, the disinfection efficiency of chlorine dioxide decreases with a
decrease in temperature (Ridenour & Ingols, 1947). The
main drawback of ClO2 is that maximum concentration
of 3 ppm only can be used for whole fresh produce. Moreover, the US Code of Federal Regulations necessitates that
the produce should be rinsed with potable water after ClO2
treatment. However, higher dose of chlorine dioxide causes
deterioration of visual quality. For example, prolonged
washing at higher concentration causes darkening (Du,
Fu, & Wang, 2009). This could be due to the oxidation action of ClO2 on phytochemical responsible for colour of
fruit and vegetables. Adverse changes have also been reported in the sensory quality of lettuce on the 3rd day of
storage after the treatment with 1.4 mg/L chlorine dioxide
for 10.5 min (Tirpanalan, Zunabovic, Domig, & Kneifel,
2011).
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a colourless gas at room temperature because of its high oxidation potential, it has a high
bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties. It has gained interest as a potential disinfectant in the fresh produce industry because of its strong oxidizing power. It does not react
with the organic compounds present in perishables to produce carcinogenic compounds and breaks down into water
and oxygen (2H2O2 / 2H2O O2). It has been given the
status of Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) in 1986 for
some of the food commodities. However, hydrogen
peroxide causes detrimental quality changes in some food
commodities for example; it causes browning of apple
skin and mushrooms at temperatures greater than 60  C.
However, it can be overcome by adding anti-browning
agents such as ascorbic acid. It also causes oxidation of anthocyanins in berries (Sapers, 2001; Sapers & Simmons,
1998). Hydrogen peroxide is an effective disinfectant
because of its efficacy over wide range of pH (6e10). However, it decomposes at pH values greater than 10 (Lee, Park,
& Oloman, 2000). Dilute hydrogen peroxide solutions are
shown to be effective in reducing microbial load during
washing of mushrooms apples, and cantaloupes, controlling
postharvest decay of vegetables, thus extending the shelf
life of fresh cut vegetables. Hydrogen peroxide concentration of 5% is shown to achieve 3 log unit reduction or
higher when immersed in H2O2 containing water with
vigorous agitation at a temperature of 50e60  C for apples
and 70e80  C for cantaloupe (Sapers, Miller, Pilizota, &
Mattrazzo, 2001; Sapers & Simmons, 1998). Application

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K. Joshi et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

of high temperature and hydrogen peroxide can achieve


about 2 log reduction for E. coli and Salmonella. However,
low concentration of H2O2 (1%) is considered to be ineffective against disinfection of cantaloupes at low temperature
of 20  C for 15 min for E coli and Salmonella. In the same
study, 1% hydrogen peroxide at 20 or 40  C for 15 min
reduced E. coli O157:H7 numbers by 1.8e3.5 log CFU/g
on intact apples. Disinfection by using hydrogen peroxide
have also been effective in reducing pathogen microorganisms on whole grapes, prunes, oranges, mushrooms,
melons, tomatoes, red bell peppers, lettuce, cucumbers,
zucchini and bell peppers (Rico et al., 2007). H2O2 is
also reported to reduce poly phenol oxidase (PPO) enzyme
activity in Chinese water chestnut (Peng, Yang, Li, Jiang, &
Joyce, 2008). The dipping treatment in the solution of H2O2
resulted in severely browning of some of the products
(shredded lettuce, berries, mushroom). Thus, it is not
preferred to decontaminate such produce. The main problem associated with the use of hydrogen peroxide is that
when shredded lettuce is dipped in it for long time browning takes place thus it is not suitable for processing green
leafy vegetables (Parish et al., 2003).
Peroxyacetic acid
Peroxyacetic acid also known as peracetic acid (PA) is
actually an equilibrium mixture of the peroxy compound,
hydrogen peroxide, and acetic acid. It has been recommended for treatment of process water. Like ozone and chlorine dioxide, peroxyacetic acid is effective in the
inactivation of pathogenic microorganisms such as E.
coli, Salmonella, Listeria in suspension at lower concentrations compared to chlorine. It is also known to be effective
against viruses and microbial spores. PA is gaining
increased interest as an alternative to chlorine disinfectants
because it does not produce harmful by products and de
composes into acetic acid, water and oxygen (Olmez
&
Kretzschmar, 2009). Peracetic acid has been reported for
use in dairy, cheese processing plants, on food processing
equipment, and as disinfectant in breweries, wineries, and
beverage plants. Efficacy of peracetic acid is influenced by
pH and temperature however, it is reported to be uninfluenced by the presence of other organic compounds in the
water. Peracetic acid is more effective at neutral pH of 7
and efficacy reduces at higher pH values. Higher temperature and neutral pH acts as synergistic for microbial inactivation for example at 15  C and 7 pH, the efficacy of
peracetic acid is almost one fifth compared to activity at
53  C and 7 pH. Efficacy of PA is very similar to other disinfections discussed. PA disinfects by oxidizing of the
outer cell membrane of vegetative bacterial cells, endospores, yeast, and mould spores. The mechanism of oxidation is the transfer of electrons, therefore the stronger the
oxidizer, the faster electrons are transferred to the microorganism and the faster the microorganism is inactivated
(NOSB TAP Materials Database complied by OMRI).
The US Code of Federal Regulations states that the use

of peroxyacetic acid in fruits and vegetables is allowed


up to 80 ppm in water used for washing. The microbial reductions for aerobic bacteria, coli forms, yeasts and
moulds on fresh-cut celery, cabbage and potatoes at
80 ppm peroxyacetic acid, were less than 1.5 log units
(Forney, Rij, Denis-Arrue, & Smilanick, 1991). Sapers
(2001) obtained a 2 log units reduction in apples inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 using 80 ppm peroxyacetic
acid, but the interval between inoculation and treatment
was only 30 min. In contrast, in a similar apple study,
Sapers (2001) obtained less than a 1 log unit reduction at
peracetic acid concentration of 80 ppm, at after 24 h of microbial inoculation. In order to exceed the apparent population reduction of 1e2 log units, more effective sanitizing
agents and application methods must be used that provides
better contact between the sanitizing agent and microbial
attachment sites on produce surfaces.
Electrolyzed oxidizing water
Electrolyzed oxidizing water (EOW) is ionized water.
EOW water can be produced by passing a salt solution
(12%) across a bipolar membrane, resulting in two solutions: an acidic solution that is characterized by a low
pH, high Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP). The other
solution is basic and composed of a high pH and low
ORP. The sodium ions are drawn to the cathode (NaOH)
and the chlorine ions are drawn to the anode (HOCl). The
alkaline EO water so collected has a pH of approximately
11.4 and ORP of 795 mV, while acidic EO water has a
pH of approximately 2.6, ORP of 1150 mV and a chlorine
concentration of 40e90 ppm. Recently the use of EOW as a
sanitizing agent for fresh produce has received lot of attention for microbial load reduction purposes.
The mechanism of EOW can be explained in three main
steps i.e. electrolysis restructures water, electrolysis
changes the oxidative reduction potential (ORP), changes
the pH. Restructuring of water refers to breakdown of
larger size molecules into smaller size so that it can efficiently penetrate the cell wall of microorganisms on fresh
produce. The resulting acidic water lacks electrons thus
called oxidizing water and has a sufficiently high ORP,
which results in the inactivation of pathogenic microorganisms by depriving microorganisms of electrons. In case of
alkaline water it is rich in electrons thus known as reducing
water. It has ability to neutralize free radicals efficiently
thus acting as an excellent antioxidant.
Acidic Electrolyzed Water (AEW) and Neutral Electrolyzed Water (NEW) are two forms of EOW and these solutions are generated by electrolysis of a dilute NaCl solution
passing through the anode of a membrane electrolyser.
AEW has a strong bactericidal effect on most of pathogenic
bacteria due to its low pH (2e4), high oxidation reduction
potential (ORP > 1000 mV) and the presence of active oxidizers like hypochlorous acid. In general NEW is similar to
AEW, but a part of the product formed at the anode is redirected into the cathode chamber, thus increasing the

K. Joshi et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

content of ClO ions. Because of its neutral pH, NEW does


not contribute as aggressively as AEW to the corrosion of
processing equipment or irritation of hands, and is more
stable because chlorine loss is significantly reduced at pH
range of 6e9 (Hsu & Kao, 2004; Len et al., 2002). Izumi
(1999) has evaluated the effect of Neutral Electrolyzed Water (pH 6.8 and 20 mg/L active chlorine) on total microbial
count in fresh-cut vegetables. Izumi (1999) also reported E.
coli or Salmonella reduction of up to 2.6 log CFU g/L with
a non significant effect on plant tissue pH, surface colour
and general appearance of vegetables such as bell pepper,
spinach and fresh cut carrots. The advantage of EOW for
the inactivation of pathogenic microorganisms relies on
its less adverse impact on the environment as well as users
health because of no residues and by-products as a result of
disinfection.
Electrolyzed oxidizing water (EOW) has been reported
to have strong bactericidal effects on E. coli O157:H7, L.
monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, and Salmonella species.
In addition, it could disinfect hepatitis B virus and human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Hati et al., 2012) and
reduce germinations of many fungal species (Buck, Van
Iersel, Oetting, & Hung, 2002). Acidic EO water was
used to treat fresh cut vegetables, and results achieved up
to a 2.6 log10 CFU/g reduction in bacterial population.
Sapers (2001) reported population reductions of E. coli
O157:H7 on apples of 3.7e4.6 log units. EOW was found
to be effective in reducing E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes population by 2.41 and 2.65 log by washing lettuce
with EOW (45 mg/L free chlorine), agitated at 100 rpm for
3 min compared to H2O2 treatment under similar conditions. The result also highlighted that EOW treatment did
not significantly affect the quality characteristics such as
colour and general appearance of lettuce (Issa-Zacharia,
Kamitani, Miwa, Muhimbula, & Iwasaki, 2011). Similarly,
the quality changes in fresh produce by AEW washing are
minimal or insignificant compared to chlorine wash (Gopal,
Coventry, Wan, Roginski, & Ajlouni, 2010). However,
some browning of lettuce is reported in some cases however there is no adverse effect on the sensory quality of the
produce (Tirpanalan et al., 2011). Electrolyzed alkaline water contains a small amount of sodium hydroxide which is a
material of soap, and is effective in washing away proteins,
fats and oils which are difficult to remove by water (Huang,
Hung, Hsu, Huang, & Hwang, 2008).
Combinations of chemical disinfectants
Hurdle technology which means combination of
different methods for preservation is often employed for
microbial safety of fresh produce (Rico et al., 2007).
The combination of various sanitizing agents is regularly
used to increase the efficacy of disinfectant against microbial population reduction. Combined treatments are advantageous because many individual treatments alone are not
adequate to ensure food safety or stability. Electrolyzed
oxidizing water has significant enhanced sanitization

59

capability when it is used in combination with various


chemicals. Paola, Roco, and Marcela (2005) observed
that EO water when combined with 0.6% of acetic acid
showed higher reduction of 5.49 log CFU/g on lettuce.
Essential oils like thyme oil and lemongrass oil are a promising method for disinfecting but very high concentration is
required when used for fresh produce for disinfection (AbdAllA, Abd-El-Kader, Abd-El-Kareem, & El-Mohamedy,
2011). However combination of these essential oils with
other chemicals or EOW can turn out to be promising alternative for disinfection. Studies showed that when lettuce
was treated with 0.6% acetic acid after EO water treatment,
there was a higher reduction in cell population
(5.49 log CFU/g). Sonication of ozonized water has proved
to be an excellent method for sanitizing as its kills all microorganisms along with removing the surface pesticide
residue (Tirpanalan et al., 2011). Williams, Sumner, and
Golden (2005) reported that combinations of hydrogen
peroxide and ozone treatment followed by refrigerated storage caused greater than 5 log CFU/ml reduction of E. coli
O157:H7 and Salmonella in apple cider and orange juice.
Some of the natural antimicrobial agents such as plant extracts (phytoalexins), bacteriocins, and organic acids can
also be used along with it to increase the efficiency and
reduce the risk of carcinogenic compounds. Some of the
other hurdles which are used are temperature, water activity
which can be tailored properly with existing process to
make it more efficient.
The efficacy of ozonation may be increased by use in
combination with other technologies. The disaggregating
effect of ultrasound upon solid matter and on gas bubbles
may improve efficacy by increasing surface area available
for the sanitation to occur. Furthermore, ultrasound accelerates the sedimentation of oxidizing organic matter, thus
reducing ozone demand. Williams et al. (2005) reported
that combinations of hydrogen peroxide and ozone treatment followed by refrigerated storage causes greater than
5-log CFU/ml reduction of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in apple cider and orange juice. Some microorganisms are sensitive to lower concentrations of oxidizing
agents when exposed to ultrasound, and the combined action of UV radiation with high frequency ultrasound increases the rate of bacterial inactivation (Sierra &
Boucher, 1971). Employing such hybrid techniques can
also reduce the dosage of the chemical disinfectant
required. Thus by using the combination of sonication
and ozone or hydrodynamic cavitation and ozone, the concentration of ozone required for disinfection may be significantly reduced to half or one-third depending upon the
type of microorganism (Tiwari et al., 2012). The combination of hydrodynamic cavitation and ozone proved to be an
efficient method of water disinfection (Jyoti & Pandit,
2004). Yuk, Yoo, Yoon, Marshall, and Oh (2007) found
that a combined ozone and organic acid treatment was
more effective than individual application for control of
E. coli O157:H7 on mushrooms.

60

K. Joshi et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 34 (2013) 54e61

Conclusion
Recently it has been observed that there is a shift in the
diet of human beings to fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruit
and vegetables must at least undergo minimal processing
to guarantee produce that is safe and of high quality. It is
highly important that the produce is free from microbial
contamination with minimum with no deleterious effect
on the quality of the fresh produce. Chlorine, the most
commonly used disinfectant, has serious health hazards
leading to formation of carcinogenic compounds in produce. Some other novel and efficient disinfectants used
for decontamination include chlorine dioxide, ozone,
hydrogen peroxide, per acetic acid/peroxyacetic acid, electrolyzed oxidizing water. This paper demonstrated that
these are safe for usage and does not leave any residue
behind. Moreover, the paper showed that there is a new
emerging trend in industry which is the hurdle technology
or combination of different chemicals with capabilities to
achieve higher levels of safety in fresh produce.

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