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Fruit and Vegetables Disinfection at SAMRO, Ltd. Using Hygienic Packaging by Means of Ozone and UV Radiation

Hanspeter Steffen a ; Peter Zumstein b ; Rip G. Rice c a Lindenstrasse 39, Utzenstorf, CH, Switzerland b SAMRO Ltd., Kirchbergstrasse 130, Burgdorf, CH, Switzerland c RICE International Consulting Enterprises, Sandy Spring, MD, USA

Online publication date: 16 April 2010

To cite this Article Steffen, Hanspeter , Zumstein, Peter and Rice, Rip G.(2010) 'Fruit and Vegetables Disinfection at SAMRO, Ltd. Using Hygienic Packaging by Means of Ozone and UV Radiation', Ozone: Science & Engineering, 32: 2, 144 — 149 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/01919510903578546 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01919510903578546

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Ozone: Science & Engineering, 32: 144–149 Copyright # 2010 International Ozone Association ISSN: 0191-9512 print / 1547-6545 online DOI: 10.1080/01919510903578546

print / 1547-6545 online DOI: 10.1080/01919510903578546 Fruit and Vegetables Disinfection at SAMRO, Ltd. Using

Fruit and Vegetables Disinfection at SAMRO, Ltd. Using Hygienic Packaging by Means of Ozone and UV Radiation

Hanspeter Steffen, 1 Peter Zumstein, 2 and Rip G. Rice 3

1 Lindenstrasse 39, Utzenstorf CH-3427, Switzerland 2 SAMRO Ltd., Kirchbergstrasse 130, CH 3401, Burgdorf, Switzerland 3 RICE International Consulting Enterprises, Sandy Spring, MD 20860, USA

At the SAMRO AG plant in Burgdorf, Switzerland, the Ventafresh technology has been adopted for cleaning, dis- infecting, and storage of potatoes. Ventafresh technologies include washing raw potatoes with ozone-containing water, then treatment with UV radiation in a specially designed ‘‘disinfection tunnel’’. Ozone wash water disinfects the pota- toes while field detritus is removed. UV radiation continues the disinfection and simultaneously destroys remaining ozone. After being processed in the Ventafresh tunnel, cleansed and disinfected potatoes are stored in a clean warehouse at high humidity in an atmosphere containing a lower concentration of ozone. When ready for marketing, the stored potatoes are washed with ozone/water, dried and graded, then washed in another bath with ultrasound and UV radiation, washed again in ozone/water, passed through a tunnel while being exposed to UV radiation (185 and 254 nm), passed through a bath of electrolyzed water, through another UV tunnel, packaged in a nitrogen þ CO 2 atmosphere, and distributed. The process is applicable to all root vege- tables, plus root celery and asparagus, and also to certain fruits (apples, pears, kiwis, tomatoes, and Sharon fruits).

Keywords Ozone, Potatoes, Carrots, Beets, Root Celery, Apples, Pears, Kiwi, Grapes, Sharon Fruits, Toma- toes, Onions, Asparagus, Ventafresh Technology, Electrolyzed Water, Ultraviolet Radiation, Ultra- sound, Ethylene Removal

BACKGROUND

SAMRO Ltd. is a Swiss company that develops, pro- duces and markets high-quality machines and systems for the treatment of agricultural products, principally root vegetables (potatoes, onions, beets, carrots), but also fruits (apples, pears, kiwis, grapes, tomatoes and Sharon fruits), as well as asparagus. As is the case in any food handling facility, close attention must be paid to cleanliness and hygienic sanitation, so as to reduce microbiological counts to low levels and to extend the shelf-lives of the final packaged products. The SAMRO plant in Burgdorf, Switzerland has adopted a combination of mod- ern technologies using the Ventafresh technologies (under license). These technologies involve the application of gaseous ozone treatments before and during storing of produce, sup- ported by UV-C radiation (UV-254 nm), and also multiple applications of aqueous ozone, e.g., ozone-water-washing, ultrasound/electrolyzed-water-washing, and UV radiation (with ozone generation), then MAP (modified atmosphere packaging) technology. The combinations of technologies that comprise the Ventafresh technologies improve sanitation within the plant, disinfect food prior to, during, and after packaging, and thereby extend the shelf-lives of products leaving the plant for distribution. Application of Ventafresh technologies at the SAMRO plant will be illustrated by the following detailed description of potato processing.

Received 9/09/2009; Accepted 11/16/2009

This paper is a User Success Report (USR) presented at the

IOA Conference in Valencia, Spain, October 2007.

Address correspondence to Rip G. Rice, RICE International

Consulting Enterprises, 1710 Hickory Knoll Road, Sandy Spring,

MD

20860, USA. E-mail: RGRice4ozone@aol.com

Potato Processing at SAMRO Conventional storage of potatoes is fraught with problems caused by microbial infections (Erwinia, Phytophtera) and weightloss. In tiny Switzerland alone (7.8millioninhabitants), some 400,000 tonnes of potatoes are processed annually, and about 5.5% are lost during conventional storage. This is

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FIGURE 1. Schematic flow diagram of potatoes being processed at SAMRO plant.

FIGURE 1. Schematic flow diagram of potatoes being processed at SAMRO plant.

equivalent to 22,000 tonnes of potatoes, equating to about 10 million Swiss francs (Sfr) worth of potatoes lost each year. The Ventafresh Disinfection System has been devel- oped and applied to improve potato storage conditions so as to reduce this wasteful loss. The initial procedure consists of three discrete steps:

1. Cleaning of the potatoes by washing in a specially constructed processing tunnel (the Ventafresh Dis- infection Tunnel), followed by

2. Treatment with ozone gas in the same tunnel, fol- lowed by

3. Treatment with UV-C radiation (UV at 254 nm), which provides additional disinfection as well as converting excess gas-phase ozone into oxygen.

After cleaning, disinfection and decontamination in the tunnel, the cleaned potatoes are stored in a large ‘‘potato warehouse’’ under a controlled atmosphere that also contains low levels of gaseous ozone. When potatoes are removed for storage for packaging and shipment to supermarkets and like distribution outlets, they are washed (in ozone-containing water), dried, graded (auto- matically using a sophisticated computer program), washed in ozone/water with ultrasonics (to loosen remaining dirt particles and microorganisms), exposed to UV-254 light, then washed in another ozone-contain- ing bath, placed on a conveyer belt passing through another tunnel containing UV lights (mostly UV-254 bulbs, but every third bulb is a 185 nm, ozone-generating lamp), then washed in a bath of electrolyzed water con- taining initially 0.3% NaCl (3 g/L) – thus, the electro- lyzed water bath contains some hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions – air-dried, packaged aseptically in a

modified packaging gas environment (nitrogen and car- bon dioxide), and sent to distribution. Figure 1 is a schematic diagram showing the various steps potatoes undergo at the SAMRO plant. The same treatment can be applied to other root vegetables, such as onions, carrots, beets and root celery. With slight mod- ifications in the engineering details of the processing equipment, the treatment concepts can be applied to other vegetables and various types of fruit.

POTATO PROCESSING DETAILS

Potatoes received in the plant (Figure 2) are passed through a brushing/cleaning machine to remove field dirt and debris. This initial cleaning step is conducted without water. Potatoes then are loaded into a receiving bin, from

FIGURE 2. Potato feed bin.

FIGURE 2. Potato feed bin.

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FIGURE 3. The Ventafresh disinfection tunnel.

FIGURE 3. The Ventafresh disinfection tunnel.

which they are removed to be processed through the Ventafresh Disinfection tunnel (Figure 3).

THE VENTAFRESH DISINFECTION TUNNEL

This tunnel is 12/2/1.2 meters (about 37/6.5/4 feet) in dimensions. As potatoes (or other root-type vegetables) enter one end of the tunnel, they pass over a series of rotating brushes (Figure 4), to remove any dirt and other field residues, still without using water for washing. That comes later in the processing. In the next section of the tunnel, the potatoes are led through a gaseous ozone-containing atmosphere contain- ing 600–900 ppm of ozone (generated by corona dis- charge) and nearly 100% relative humidity. Under these conditions, an initial disinfection of the potatoes takes place. Ozone for this step is generated by corona dis- charge. In the final section of the tunnel, the potatoes are exposed to ultraviolet light (UV-C ¼ UV-254 nm; 23,000 microWatts/cm 2 /sec). The exposure time to UV radiation in the Ventafresh Disinfection Tunnel normally

FIGURE 4. Rotating dry bushes.

FIGURE 4. Rotating dry bushes.

is 1 minute, but can be extended to 2 minutes if the potatoes are particularly dirty. UV radiation not only provides an additional and continuing disinfection, but also destroys any excess ozone present. Hydroxyl free radicals formed during UV radiation and destruction of ozone help in the disinfection and oxidation processes that occur during passage through the Ventafresh Disinfection tunnel.

POTATO STORAGE

After being cleansed in the Ventafresh tunnel, the potatoes are placed in 500 kg tote boxes and these are stored in a large warehouse (Figure 5) (maintained at a constant temperature just above 8–10 C (46–50 F) for up 3 to 9 months in a rigorously controlled atmosphere containing 2–6 ppm of ozone (generated by corona dis- charge and controlled by Fuzzy Logic software for ozone, temperature, humidity, etc. – see http://www.seattlerobo-

tics.org/encoder/mar98/fuz/flindex.html).

Relative humidity is controlled at a minimum of 98%. These storage conditions of temperature (8 C; 46 F) and relative humidity result in weight losses over 8–9 months of storage time of only 3–4% (maximum 5%), compared with 10–15% weight losses if stored below 8 C. Normal storage losses are only 4% (maximum), compared with 4–12% by conventional storage techniques. The large upright pipes in the background are the air distribution and circulation pipes. Storage air is sucked from under the boxes into floor ducts, ozone is added as necessary to maintain a concentration of 2–6 ppm of ozone, and is reinjected above the potatoes (ozone is slightly heavier than air). This provides a constant recir- culation of ozone-containing air constantly being drawn through the stored potatoes. If any sprouting is noted, the concentrations of ozone can be quickly slug-boosted to 25–30 ppm and these levels held for 2–3 hours at a time.

FIGURE 5. Potato storage after Ventafresh cleaning.

FIGURE 5. Potato storage after Ventafresh cleaning.

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POST-STORAGE POTATO PROCESSING AND TREATMENT

When stored potatoes are ready for packaging and dis- tribution, they still are subjected to several additional washing and disinfection processing steps. Each of these post-storage treatment steps is designed to reduce the microorganism counts on the potato surfaces by a minimum of 1-logarithm per disinfecting step. Since four additional disinfection washings are provided, the total log-reductions of surface microorganisms are a minimum of 4-logs.

Ozone Water Washing Bath – #1 When removed from storage, potatoes are washed for several minutes in a drum water washer containing up to 8 mg/L (ppm) of ozone in the water. Since there is still some dirt on the potatoes, and many microorganisms, this water becomes contaminated. At that point the wash water is treated and recycled.

Wash water treatment and recycling. Wash water is withdrawn continuously from the ozone washing tank (#1) and treated by sedimentation, followed by ozone disinfection (up to 8 mg/L of dissolved ozone generated by corona discharge and held for 5 minutes or more (to provide a minimum Ct value of 40 mg/L-min). Drying and grading. After initial ozone/water wash- ing, the potatoes are dried by means of an air knife (similar to the kind used in automobile laundries), then graded using a special sophisticated potato-grading soft- ware developed by SAMRO. This involves photograph- ing potatoes 30 times within a very short period of time, then automatic, computerized rejection of below-stan- dard potatoes on the basis of poor shapes, surface damages and off-colors. Potatoes passing this grading procedure move to the next step. UV and ultrasonics bath. In this step, the graded potatoes are sent to a water bath where they are subjected to ultrasound. This dislodges tiny dirt particles that may still remain in the potato eyes, as well as dislodging microorganisms that may still be adhering to the potato surfaces. Ultrasound also provides excellent biocidal effects by destroying cell membranes by cavitation. On their way from this bath to the next ozone/water washing bath (#2), the potatoes are passed under UV-C radiation (254 nm; 23,000 micro-Watts/cm 2 /sec ) as they move through a tunnel on a conveyor belt (Figure 6). During this exposure, the potatoes are turned constantly by the turning rollers on the conveyor belt, thus guaran- teeing several minutes of exposure to the UV radiation.

Ozone Water Washing Bath – #2 Next, the potatoes are again washed in water contain- ing ozone (up to 8 mg/L, generated by corona discharge – as in Ozone Water Washing Bath #1).

FIGURE 6. The UV exposure tunnel.

FIGURE 6. The UV exposure tunnel.

UV tunnel. Potatoes next move through another tun- nel where they are exposed continuously to UV-254 radiation exposure (23,000 microWatts/cm 2 /sec) over sev- eral minutes. This treatment maintains the high micro- biological quality of the stringently processed potatoes.

Electrolyzed Water Washing Electrolyzed water is produced by means of an Adamant Technologies (Neuˆchatel, Switzerland) unit fitted with two diamond-coated electrodes (www.adamant-technologies.- com). See Figure 7. Electrolysis conditions are 30 A and ca. 25 V Direct Current with an electrode shift of ca 20 minutes in an automatic cycle. To the water to be electro- lyzed, 1–3 g of sodium chloride (per liter) is added to the demineralized water automatically; demineralizing the water prevents calcium-caking at the electrodes. The concentrations of free radicals in aqueous solution can be adapted as the plant desires from 1 to 140 mg/L (the SAMRO plant uses 50–100 ppm of free radical strength for washing potatoes). Higher levels require an increase in salt concentrations. Approximately half of the amount indicated analytically as mg/L are free oxidative radicals. Free radicals

FIGURE 7. Equipment for electrolyzing water. Right: electrolysis unit. Left: electrolysis tank and storage.

FIGURE 7. Equipment for electrolyzing water. Right: electrolysis unit. Left: electrolysis tank and storage.

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in solution are measured by the DPD method, by UV-Light absorption, and also by the Indigo Trisulfonate method with color batch comparisons. Freshly prepared electrolyzed water can be stored for quite some time. During storage, the solutions lose about 0.1 mg/L/h, or 2.4 mg/L/day of free radical strength. It is recommended not to store electrolyzed water, but always to brew it fresh. Electrolyzed water containing 50 mg/L of oxidative free radicals can be prepared readily without any harmful effects of off-gassing, with the same long stability as lower concentrations. Because electrolyzed water is generated using sodium chloride, the solution also contains reasonable concentra- tions of hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite anions. These chlorine-containing disinfectants tend to coat the potatoes, providing even more microbiological protection.

UV Tunnel Potatoes next move through a second tunnel where they are again exposed continuously to UV-254 radiation exposure (23,000 microWatts/cm 2 /sec) over several min- utes. This treatment maintains the high microbiological quality of the stringently processed potatoes.

DRYING AND MODIFIED ATMOSPHERE PACKAGING

Potatoes washed in electrolyzed water (with ultra- sound) are passed through a UV tunnel where they are exposed to UV-254 and to ozone (generated by UV-185 radiation). Every third or fourth UV bulb is an ozone- generating bulb, and during this time, the potatoes are dried. The dried potatoes then are packaged in 1, 2, 2.5, and 5 kilogram sizes. The bags are flushed with nitrogen, and toward the end of this flushing, some CO 2 is added. The bags are sealed, and are ready for distribution. From the time the potatoes leave the electrolyzed water washing bath, they are handled aseptically. No longer do they see daylight, nor are they exposed to ambient air. When the consumer opens the bag, all of the potatoes contained are clean and there are no sprouts. Ventafresh processing of potatoes not only maintains bacteriological cleanliness, but also prevents sprouting.

EXTENSION TO OTHER PRODUCE

The principles of Ventafresh processing have been extended easily from potatoes to other root vegetables, such as onions, carrots, beets, and root celery, vegetables that can be dry-brushed and treated in the same manner as potatoes. For applying Ventafresh techniques to vegetables that are softer than the root vegetables, or to fruit, some adaptations in the processing techniques are necessary so as to prevent damage to these more sensitive foods. Apples, for example, are stored under controlled atmospheres that are different from those for potatoes, because of the necessity to destroy ethylene gas (eliminated by ripening apples – and other fruit). Ethylene gas is removed by periodic controlled injections of ozone. Ventafresh technologies applied to the processing of non-root vegetables and fruits have been found to extend the shelf-lives from 10 days (conventional treatment) to 21 days, and sometimes longer.

COST COMPARISONS FOR POTATO PROCESSING

Costs for processing and storing potatoes by the Ventafresh technology are compared below with costs for cold storage and natural storage. Pertinent para- meters are presented in Table 1. Table 2 compares costs for the three procedures. Calculations for the Ventafresh technology are based on renting two Ventafresh Disinfection Tunnels, each able to process 15 tonnes/h of potatoes. For 6,000 tonnes of potatoes to be stored, the cost is Sfr 0.50 per kg. Data in Table 2 show that already in the first year, Ventafresh technology saves Sfr 308,000 over cold storage, and Sfr 158,000 over natural storage. Figure 8 shows a comparison of costs for potato storage between the Ventafresh technology, cold storage and nat- ural storage over 10 years. Also shown are the cost savings provided by Ventafresh over the same 10-year period. Costs for Ventafresh are always lower than costs for cold storage and for natural storage, and after 10 years, Ventafresh is projected to save more than Sfr 2 million.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Ventafresh technological approaches to food handling and processing for distribution to wholesale and retail stores

TABLE 1. Comparison of Potato Storage Parameters – Ventafresh, Cold and Natural Storage

Parameter

Ventafresh

Cold storage

Natural storage

Relative Humidity Storage Temperature Microorganism Controls Needed Shrinkage Losses Storage Damage Losses Microbial Spoilage

, 98% 8–10 C none max. 5% max. 4% very little

, 94% 6–8 C chemical

, 85–94% 8–10 C chemical

4–5%

4–12%

6%

10–12%

little

High

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TABLE 2. Cost Benefits of Processing/Storage of Potatoes by Ventafresh Technology

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Cost item

Ventafresh

Cold storage

Natural storage

Rental of Ventafresh Equipment Storage Cost per Tonne Disinfection Cost per Tonne Shrinkage Losses Shrinkage Costs per Tonne Storage Damage Losses Storage Damage Loss Costs/tonne

Sfr. 172,000

Sfr. 50

Sfr. 100

Sfr. 50

Sfr. 5

Sfr. 10

Sfr. 10

4%

5%

8

Sfr. 20

Sfr. 25

Sfr. 40

4%

8%

10%

Sfr. 20

Sfr. 40

Sfr. 50

TOTAL:

Sfr. 742,000

Sfr. 1,050,000

Sfr. 900,000

SAVINGS:

Sfr. 308,000

Sfr. 158,000

Storage costs and savings

12,000,000 12,000,000 Cold Storage Cold Storage 10,000,000 10,000,000 Natural Natural 8,000,000 8,000,000
12,000,000 12,000,000
Cold Storage
Cold Storage
10,000,000 10,000,000
Natural
Natural
8,000,000 8,000,000
Ventafresh
Ventafresh
6,000,000 6,000,000
Savings
Savings
4,000,000 4,000,000
2,000,000
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
SFr
SFr

Year

FIGURE 8. Cost comparisons, Ventafresh vs. conventional techniques.

provides state-of-the art approaches for maintaining hygiene and above all, controlling microorganisms on the foods before, during and after storage, and into packaging. These techniques include the use of gaseous ozone (gener- ated by both corona discharge and by UV-185 nm radia- tion), aqueous ozone (generated by corona discharge), UV- C radiation (254 nm), ultrasonics, electrolyzed water, and modified atmosphere packaging (under nitrogen and CO 2 ). The processing of potatoes has reached the full com- mercial scale at the SAMRO plant, and processing con- ditions for other vegetables and fruits are being developed

as of this writing. Machines for this new food processing technology are engineered and manufactured by SAMRO and SwissFood Tech Gmbh, both of Switzerland. A lead- ing Swiss vegetable and fruit transportation and proces- sing firm, Steffen-Ris AG, is testing Ventafresh technologies as well, and were planning to install the commercial system later in 2007. This commercial-scale demonstration study was supported by both the Swiss Federal Research Station and Steffen-Ris AG. The pri- mary emphasis of this study was on the shelf-life of the Ventafresh-processed potatoes.

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