By Sunghwan Jung and Joe Eifert, Virginia Tech
Chemical Sanitization For Agricultural Products
Foodborne illness impacts about 1 in 6 Americans every year, and is caused by the consumption of foods contaminated with foodborne pathogens. Fresh fruits and vegetables are increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks and lack a step to “decontaminate” or remove any foodborne pathogens that may be present. Moreover, a rapid growth of farmer’s markets in the U.S. expedites potential foodborne outbreaks if produce-sanitization methods are not easily accessible. This highlights the need for rapid, efficient, and low-cost sanitation methods that decontaminate the produce, but allow it to remain fresh with great tastes.
For over a century, chlorine has been used to disinfect agricultural products. Such toxic chemicals have been widely used to effectively kill small-sized, disease-causing bacteria, parasites, and other organisms. Chlorine has also been repeatedly used in processes of postharvest handling, product transportation, packaging, and market display of fruits and vegetables for many decades. However, chlorine is primarily used as a water sanitizer and applying it directly to produce surfaces has limited effect. Additionally, the environmental impacts and health effects of chlorine and its carcinogenic by-products are of serious concern, especially for long-term continuous exposure to humans.