By Jill Hollingsworth, VP, Food Safety and Retail Industry Relations, Ecolab
We all know the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. But foodborne illness, outbreaks, and recalls have consumers, retailers, produce growers, and regulatory authorities concerned about the safety of these products. The challenges inherent in fresh produce safety are different from most other foods because of the way produce is grown, harvested, and processed. In addition, there is no kill step for raw produce.
As a retailer, you want to sell produce that is not only fresh and of the highest quality, but you also want to offer the safest product possible. That is why incorporating an antimicrobial wash treatment for fruit and vegetables can be a critical investment in food safety and quality. In addition, it can enhance shelf life and reduce shrink by destroying non-public health bacteria that cause spoilage.
Here are the key factors to consider when selecting a produce antimicrobial wash.
What are the antimicrobial qualities of the product?
While produce washes may be labeled as “antimicrobial,” not every product will have the same capabilities. Be sure the product is effective against some of the most common pathogens linked to fresh produce outbreaks such as:
- E.coli O157:H7 and other STECS
- Salmonella enterica
- Listeria monocytogenes
Look at the label to see not only what pathogens it controls, but also the efficacy, usually expressed as a percent kill (such as 99.999%). Antimicrobial treatments are generally intended to kill pathogens in the wash/rinse water to prevent cross-contamination but take a closer look — some treatments are also able to reduce pathogens on the surface of produce.
Is the product recognized by the proper entities?
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) govern what types of antimicrobial washes can be used on fresh produce. Check the label to be sure it is an EPA-registered product for this use. Ask the supplier of the product if it has received an FDA Notification Letter as an approved Food Contact Substance.
Is the antimicrobial wash easy to use?
It goes without saying that the safety of your employees is paramount in selecting a produce wash. You want a product that requires no personal protective equipment (PPE). You also want a product that will not harm employees if it contacts their skin. Ease of use should never be disregarded with produce washes. If the products are not easy to use, the instances of misuse or lack of use will increase. For example, if a produce wash is not available for use with an automatic sink dispenser, you face risks of using too much or too little product.
Is the wash approved for use on both whole and cut fruits and vegetables? Can it be used for both washing and crisping?
Some antimicrobial produce wash treatments have limitations on how they can be used and for what types of produce. It saves time and money, and simplifies your operation, to have one product that can do it all. Look for an antimicrobial product that is approved for all uses including washing whole produce prior to cutting or peeling, crisping or rehydrating leafy greens, and rinsing whole or cut produce to reduce bacterial load. Also, you should choose a product that does not routinely require a water rinse after use.
Final Thoughts: The Best Antimicrobial Produce Wash Helps to Protect and Simplify Your Operation
Overall, antimicrobial washes for produce should offer efficacy, versatility, safety, ease of use, and reliability. By using a produce antimicrobial wash with these key qualities, you are taking proactive steps to enhancing produce safety and reducing risks to your customers, your associates, and your business.
Is there a product on the market today that meets all these key qualities? Yes, ProduceMaxx®. To learn more, visit: Produce Maxx : EPA Registered Antimicrobial Product (chemstarcorp.com)
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