Main content area

Development of a Chlorine Dosing Strategy for Fresh Produce Washing Process to Maintain Microbial Food Safety and Minimize Residual Chlorine

Chen, Xi, Hung, Yen‐Con
Journal of food science 2018 v.83 no.6 pp. 1701-1706
Escherichia coli O157, Lactuca sativa var. capitata, antimicrobial properties, automation, byproducts, chlorine, disinfection, equations, food safety, fresh produce, industry, lettuce, pH, pathogens, prediction, sanitizers, strawberries, washing
The residual free chlorine level in fresh produce wash solution is closely correlated to the chemical and microbial safety of produce. Excess amount of free chlorine can quickly react with organic matters to form hazardous disinfection by‐products (DBPs) above EPA‐permitted levels, whereas deficiency of residual chlorine in produce wash solution may result in incompletely removing pathogens on produce. The purpose of this study was to develop a chlorine dosing strategy to optimize the chlorine dosage during produce washing process without impacting the microbial safety of fresh produce. Prediction equations were developed to estimate free chlorine needed to reach targeted residual chlorine at various sanitizer pH and organic loads, and then validated using fresh‐cut iceberg lettuce and whole strawberries in an automated produce washer. Validation results showed that equations successfully predicted the initial chlorine concentration needed to achieve residual chlorine at 10, 30, 60, and 90 mg/L for both lettuce and strawberry washing processes, with the root mean squared error at 4.45 mg/L. The Escherichia coli O157:H7 reductions only slightly increased on iceberg lettuce and strawberries with residual chlorine increasing from 10 to 90 mg/L, indicating that lowering residual chlorine to 10 mg/L would not compromise the antimicrobial efficacy of chlorine‐based sanitizer. Based on the prediction equations and E. coli O157:H7 reduction results, a chlorine dosing strategy was developed to help the produce industry to maintain microbial inactivation efficacy without adding excess amount of free chlorine. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The chlorine dosing strategy can be used for fresh produce washing process to enhance the microbial food safety and minimize the DBPs formation potential.