The American Chemical Society has found that water and electricity can kill E. coli, salmonella and listeria in food more effectively than chlorine and heat.
The society recently presented a research report on "electrolyzed water," which can be used to sanitize food, eating utensils and food-processing equipment, according to researcher Yen-Con Hung, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Georgia.
Hung said soaking a cutting board in electrolyzed water for about five minutes at a moderately warm temperature (about 95-105 F) could reduce bacteria by a million times.
Electrolyzed water also doesn't adversely affect the quality of food as heat can, according to Hung. Trained sensory panelists were unable to find any differences in color, appearance or smell between produce washed with electrolyzed water and produce washed with tap water, he said.
The electrolytic process produces acidic water, which contributes to its effectiveness, in addition to its potential for oxidation-reduction. The chemical exchange may take away electrons needed by bacteria cell membranes for metabolism and survival, he said.
Several companies in Japan already are producing the compact equipment needed to produce and treat food with electrolyzed water. A typical unit would cost $3,000-$5,000, Hung said.
A fast-food chain in the United States is testing the technology and several other companies have expressed interest, according to Hung. A few U.S. water treatment plants already use a similar technology, he said.
(Source: American Chemical Society)