Concerns over the carcinogenic effects of chlorine, typically used for sterilizing produce, has led to research of other methods for eliminating harmful bacteria. This research has found that hypochlorous acid produced by commercial water ionizers is more effective at reducing and eliminating bacteria.
Tests have shown that hypochlorous acid produced by water ionizers effectively reduces or eliminates harmful bacteria in about half the time. Further research shows its effective application in preventing bacteria during storage and transit.
Hypochlorous acid is produced when water is passed through an electrolysis chamber with a NaCl catalyst. During the electrolysis, or “ionization” process, the electrical current causes a restructuring of the molecules which allows for the production of hypochlorous acid – also known as strong acidic water or EO (electrolyzed oxidizing) water.
This technology has been used for sterilizing in Japan for many years. Recently, the USFDA has approved water at specific pH, ORP and chlorine content (as generated by commercial water ionizers) as suitable for sterilization in several industries.
Tests have shown that hypochlorous acid produced by commercial water ionizers effectively reduced bacteria levels on produce in half the time required to achieve the same level of sterilization using a sodium hypochlorite solution with significantly higher levels of free chlorine. This can represent significant cost savings. Less time required for sterilizing allows for greater daily production/processing. Also, hypochlorous acid can be produced by commercial water ionizers for little more than the cost of water and the NaCl catalyst (salt) as opposed to the cost of sodium hypochlorite solutions.
For storage and transport, the strong acidic water (hypchlorous acid) can be frozen to produce ice which maintains the anti-bacterial properties. The ice used for storage and during transport now becomes an additional protective measure against proliferation of bacteria while produce is being stored and transported to market.
Unlike chlorine/sodium hypchlorite solutions used for sterilization, hypochlorous acid had little or no effect on the color, taste or texture of produce. Also, because of its rapid dissipation, levels of residual chlorine on produce and surfaces was minimal or undetectable. Finally, sterilization of produce using hypochlorous acid had significantly less impact on the nutritional value of foods.
Safer, Environmentally Friendly
The lack of residual chlorine on produce and food surfaces addresses concerns relating to the carcinogenic effects of sodium hypochlorite which is most often used as a disinfectant. Hypochlorous acid is non-toxic and has been proven non-corrosive to skin, mucous membranes or organic materials. The chlorine fumes from sodium hypochlorite use are not found when using hypochlorous acid making it safer for workers in sterilization areas or those responsible for cleaning/sanitizing work areas.
Another growing concern is the environmental impact of chemicals being flushed into the eco-system when used for cleaning and disinfecting. Hypochlorous acid dissipates quickly, reducing the impact on the environment.
Research continues on the use of hypochlorous acid for bacteria reduction in various types of produce. At this point, the findings have been consistent. Hypochlorous acid produced by commercial water ionizers is safer and more efficacious than traditional sodium hypochlorite sterilization methods.