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Reports indicate greater shelf life after applying electrolysed water

In recent years, the demand for fresh vegetables, fruit and produce has been coupled with a concern of chemical cross-contamination and a growing desire for sustainable disinfectants. Electrolysed water has been tested and trialed by a number of scientists to determine the affects this may have on bacterial growth reduction on organic matter such as fruit, vegetables and fish.

Food deteriorates due to factors such as temperature, oxygen, light, moisture, and microbial growth. When these factors work together, the deterioration process can accelerate and spoil foods swiftly. Oxygen can essentially provide conditions that will enhance microorganism bacteria growth (aerobes). With perishable organic matter, “the presence of oxygen enhances the growth of microorganisms, such as molds and yeasts, and contributes directly to deterioration of fats, vitamins, flavors, and colors within foods through the work of enzymes”.[1]

Electrolysed water works as an antimicrobial due to the varied pH levels and  strong ORP readings.[2] ORP, or oxidation-reduction potential, refers to the tendency of a chemical substance to oxidize or reduce another chemical substance. Such a strong oxidation-reduction potential means that bacteria isn’t able to thrive and ultimately “leads to reduction of free radicals in biological systems”.[3][4]

In one such case study, fresh-cut lettuce was washed with the acid electrolysed water and found that the “viable aerobic mesophilic bacteria on the lettuce was reduced” dramatically.[5] Findings indicated that treatment of acid electrolysed water also “greatly inhibited the phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) activity, which is associated with the browning of cut lettuce, after 3 days of storage compared with other treatments” [6]. The report concluded that the application of acid electrolysed water (AcEW) is “suitable for practical use in the lettuce washing process for preserving both the microbiological and visual quality of lettuce”. [7] Another study found that acidic electrolysed water was efficacious against bacteria on strawberries, stipulating that the solution “could be sufficiently effective to offer an alternative solution to conventional sanitizers”.[8]

As electrolysed water works as a surface sanitizer, after being treated the bacteria on the surface of organic produce is eliminated. The bacterium returns, so the produce must be treated regularly if the shelf-life is to improve. Yet, as the findings in the highlighted reports elucidate, because bacteria is responsible for the degenerated and therefore spoilage of food, if electrolysed water is applied, the produce is given enhanced life as the bacteria process is dramatically moderated. This is becoming increasingly more important, especially in light of the large quantities Australians are reportedly wasting.

According to the ABC, OzHarvest and FoodWise, Australians waste approximately $8 billion worth of edible food each year[1], discarding up to 20% of the food they purchase.[2][3] The Australian Government’s National Waste Report 2010 by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts “estimated that 35% of municipal waste is food (equivalent to 2.675 million tonnes of household food waste) and that 21.5% of commercial and industrial waste is food…equivalent to 1.388 million tonnes.”[4]

Waste on this level, especially fresh produce, is extremely alarming. The approximate facts leave Australia as the “second highest producer of waste per person in the world…second only to the United States America”. [5] The option to remain consuming and colossal wasting or we have the opportunity to progressively reevaluate and plan for a more socially affirmative future. Having a product that does not degrade the environment, affect the integrity or taint the taste of food and prolongs shelf-life presents an incredibly positive opportunity.

Through evidence ascertained in scientific case studies and subsequent research papers, it is widely accepted that “electrolysed water is highly effective in reducing or eliminating foodborne pathogens on kitchen boards and various food products, such as fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables, on which it reduced populations of pathogens to undetectable levels”.[6]  

This ability to kill bacteria and microorganisms consequently results in a prolonging of shelf life of perishable products.  Whilst packaged chemicals have the ability to kill bacteria, there are many disadvantageous aspects to these products. The toxicity of many packaged chemicals result in damaging the integrity of the food and residual can render the products unsafe to consume. In addition to this, the hazardous nature of effective yet highly invasive chemicals presents difficulties of disposing and handling after applying them. 

As electrolysed water solutions are made through simple electrolysis using pure water and no added chemicals aside from salt they have a “less adverse impact on the environment”.[7][8] Because they are produced on-site, the emissions and resources needed to manufacture, package, ship and store traditional cleaners are eradicated. Additionally, many reports concluded “the use of [electrolysed water] does not result in changes in ingredients, texture, scent, flavor etc., which are brought about by [traditional packaged chemicals]”.[9]

With many positive and advantageous aspects, “The use of electrolysed water is an emerging technology with considerable potential”. The way of the future, which, if utilized effectively presents a novel and sustainable product with enormous potential.

 

 

[1] 33% of that is fresh organic produce, such as fruit and vegetables

[2] Relates to household waste

[3] http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/

[4] http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/

[5] http://www.transpacific.com.au/asset/cms/Documents/Australian%20Waste%20-%20The%20Facts.pdf

[6] Al-Haq, M., Sugiyama, J., Isobe, S. (2005) “Applications of Electrolyzed Water in Agriculture & Food Industries”, Food Science and Technology Research, 11(2), 135-150

[7] Koseki, S., Fujiwara, K. and Itoh K. (2002). Decontamination effect of frozen acidic electric electrolyzed water on lettuce. J. Food Prot. 65, 411-414

[8] Kim, C., Hung, Y. and Brackett, R.E. (2000b). Roles of oxidation-reduction potential in electrolyzed oxidizing and chemically modified water for the inactivation of food-related pathogens. . J. Food Prot. 63, 19-24

[9] Al-Haq, M., Sugiyama, J., Isobe, S. (2005) “Applications of Electrolyzed Water in Agriculture & Food Industries”, Food Science and Technology Research, 11(2), 135-150

[1] http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-does-food-rot/

[2] Al-Haq et al. argued that “a significant number of scientists believe that all three factors (chlorine, pH and high ORP) contribute towards disinfection”.[2] 

[3] Al-Haq, M., Sugiyama, J., Isobe, S. (2005) “Applications of Electrolyzed Water in Agriculture & Food Industries”, Food Science and Technology Research, 11(2), 135-150

[4] ORP, or oxidation-reduction potential, refers to the tendency of a chemical substance to oxidize or reduce another chemical substance. Oxidation is the loss of electrons by an atom, molecule, or ion.

[5] In microbiology, colony-forming units (CFU/g) is the unit used to measure and calculate the number of viable bacteria cells in a sample.  The g in CFU/g refers to the number of colony-forming units per weight of matters.

[6] Koseki, S., Fujiwara, K. and Itoh K. (2002). Decontamination effect of frozen acidic electric electrolyzed water on lettuce. J. Food Prot. 65, 411-414

[7] Ibid.

[8] Koseki, S., Yoshida, K., Isobe, S. and Itoh, K. “Efficacy of acidic electrolyzed water for microbial decontamination of cucumbers and strawberries”. J. Food Production, 67, 1247-1251

[9] Al-Haq, M., Sugiyama, J., Isobe, S. (2005) “Applications of Electrolyzed Water in Agriculture & Food Industries”, Food Science and Technology Research, 11(2), 135-150