The US-based food giant said its FreshRinse solution has been scientifically validated as delivering “a substantial reduction in microorganisms on leafy greens, including superior microbial efficacy against such pathogens as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7, as compared to the industry's conventional chlorine sanitizers”.
In recent years there has been growing concern over the presence of foodborne pathogens in bagged salads. The most serious incident in 2006 saw three killed and more than 200 were sickened in the US as a result of an outbreak of E coli that was traced back to packaged cut spinach originating from California.
But Chiquita said its new wash would mark a step change in treatment of leafy greens. The firm said it had carried out rigorous testing on the wash and that its own analysis had been supplemented with a third-party pathogen study performed by the National Center for Food Safety and Technology.
Treating Romaine lettuce and spinach with the solution resulted in at least a nine-fold reduction of E.Coli H7: 0157 and salmonella compared to chlorine washes. Standout results saw it eliminate 78 times more salmonella on Romaine lettuce leaves and 750 times greater reduction of suspended pathogens compared to chlorinated wash water, claimed Chiquita.
"FreshRinse sets a new standard in food safety for the produce industry,” said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer. “We continue to deliver breakthrough innovations and we plan to make this new technology available to the industry.”
The company said the wash is a combination of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) and FDA-approved ingredients. It is acceptable for use on both conventional and organic produce. Ingredients will decompose to environmentally safe and friendly compounds, said the firm.
The product has been successfully tested under commercial salad manufacturing conditions over a five-month period. Leafy greens retain their natural colour and aroma better when treated with the solution compared to chlorine counterparts, said the firm.
Chiquita said FreshRinse would be made available to the industry under licence.