Applications in Food Industry – Overview
In recent years, ionized water has become well regarded as a viable method of sanitizing in the food industry. It has several advantages over traditional cleaning/sanitizing/sterilizing methods which has drawn more attention to its use by both large and small companies in the industry.
Ionized water has been tested and proven effective in the food industry as well as several other industry applications. The primary advantages of using ionized water over traditional cleaning methods are safety and cost.
Ionized Water for Sterilization
For sterilization, strong acidic water is produced for use on surfaces. This water has strong acidic properties, tested and proven effective for killing bacteria. Unlike traditional chemical solutions, strong acidic water is non-corrosive to skin, mucous membrane or organic materials. It can be used in combination with other cleaning/sterilizing methods safely and effectively.
Strong acidic water produced through ionization has been used effectively in Japan for many years in the food industry, where it was initially developed. This water has anti-microbial and strong anti-bacterial properties neutralizing most pathogenic bacterial concerns related to food safety.
The primary advantage of using strong acidic water is safety. Different from hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid, strong acidic water produced through ionization is safe and non-corrosive to skin or mucous membranes. The resulting lower risk of skin and/or membrane irritation or acute toxicity – common issues with traditional chemicals used for cleaning/sterilizing – allows for freer use and reduced chemical-related employee incidents.
Production is on-site using ordinary tap water and salt. When passed through the ionization system, strong acidic water or hypochlorous acid is produce. This acidic cleaning solution is readily available, virtually “on demand” making it possible for frequent repeat cleaning of many areas. Without the ongoing costs of replenishing chemical supplies, this on-demand solution can potentially be used more frequently resulting in even lower risk of spreading and propagation of food-borne pathogens.
Acidic ionized water has been effectively used to eliminate food-borne pathogens on cutting boards as reducing Enterobacter aerogenes and S. aureus on multiple surfaces. Glass, stainless steel, various types of ceramic tile have all been effectively treated with acidic ionized water for disinfecting.
L. monocytogenes biofilms is a food-borne pathogen that is known to be resistant to chlorine and ammonia sanitizers. In a 2001 study investigating L. monocytogenes resistance on stainless steel surfaces, acidic ionized water with a pH of 2.6 and an ORP of 1160 with a chlorine level of 56mg/L was able to reduce the L. monocytogenes to levels below detection. In comparison, 200 mg/L of chlorine was required to achieve the same result within the same period of time.
The pH, ORP and free chlorine available in the water produced by commercial water ionizers can be adjusted to levels appropriate for sterilizing. The amount of electricity used during the ionization process, the amount of catalyst used and the rate of production can all be adjusted to ensure production of acidic ionized water sufficient for sterilizing food production surfaces and equipment for effective control of hazardous pathogens.