Although produce wash water costs have already had an upward trend in the form of rising water prices and waste water surcharges, the phrase “you ain’t seen nothing, yet” could take on a whole new meaning if the federal government follows through on its promise to reduce funding for municipal water systems. Water restrictions and astronomical waste water surcharges could be just around the corner. It’s no surprise that produce processing facilities are actively researching ways to reduce costs in their wash systems.
A new system could change everything
Several major produce processing players are taking a serious look at the new, ozone-based system recently launched by American Water Purification, Inc. (AWPI). After receiving FDA (GRAS) approval for the system, AWPI has ramped up discussions with several national produce companies.
“What we bring to the table is a better pathogen kill with a system that produces zero toxic residues, both in the food product and in the environment,” said AWPI CEO Dan Gates. “We’re also able to project very little downtime with the system because of its controls and monitoring tools, which allow managers to view system events via Internet. You can remotely control processes in real-time, which can solve many problems before they become critical.”
Why ozone is safer
Bacteria in the produce wash water absorb ozone (O3) molecules as they normally would O2. Because ozone is an unstable oxygen molecule, the bacteria explode when the O3 molecule breaks up in the normal process of releasing its extra oxygen atom to return to the more stable O2 form. This is a mechanical kill, making it less likely that bacteria will adapt through mutation, as they often do in reaction to chemical-based antimicrobials–yet another advantage of the technology.
“We really believe that what we have here is the future of produce wash water recovery, both environmentally and in terms of cost reduction,” said Gates.