Martori Farms has finalized a three-year process of switching to a method of cleaning its cantaloupes in a way that kills most bacteria and pathogens.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Martori Farms uses hot wash, a procedure developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of California-Davis that reduces environmental bacteria and pathogens on melons by more than 99.9%, said company president Steve Martori.

The company began treating cantaloupes with hot wash in 2012, but this is the first year the company is using its own customized hot wash system full-time, Martori said.

“This is our final install — we’re no longer a beta site system,” Martori said.

A 2008 USDA study found that hot water was more effective than chlorine washes at preventing salmonella contamination.

Martori’s hot wash process uses a tunnel made of stainless steel with a stainless steel micro-chain link transport system. After cantaloupes are graded, they travel through the tunnel, where they are continuously showered with hot water.

Fruit is turned at regular intervals to ensure that the entire melon rind surface is treated with the water. After leaving the tunnel, melons enter a pressurized packing facility, which minimizes exposure to outside elements.

Fruit is air-dried to remove residual moisture, then electronically sized and packed. Once packed, melons are forced-air cooled for shipment.

Since its implementation, fruit treated by hot wash at Martori has been subjected to about 1,000 sample testings per year, Martori said.

“We have a very high confidence level that we have zero pathogens.”

So far, customers like what they see, Martori said.

“It’s been very well-received. So far we’ve had nothing but positive feedback.”