(Jan. 14, 1:07 p.m.) Fresh-Veg Distribution Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., is offering an ozone-washing process to rid fresh produce of pathogens.

Called the “ozone process,” it is a chemical-free way of cleaning and sanitizing fruits and vegetables without the use of chemicals, said sales manager Ely Trujillo.

“The uniqueness is that the wash the product goes through leaves no film or residue on the product,” Trujillo said. “(This) can eliminate (almost all) pathogens, including viruses, spores and yeast.”

The process takes place in several steps, Trujillo said.

First is a pre-wash in a low-level ozone wash that sanitizes the water and gives the product a soft landing, minimizing mechanical damage. This also rinses any dirt particles off the product, before it is sent up a conveyor to the main wash.

In the main wash, the product is subjected to a high-concentration ozone spray from 36 nozzles, killing pathogens before passing on to an air-knife line that removes water using HEPA-filtered air.

The product moves on to quality control and then into sanitized poly-lined packaging for shipment.

“It offers end-users a great product that can be eaten out of the package,” Trujillo said. “Between the ozone process oxidization and the poly-liner, we’ve seen up to 100% increased shelf life in tests.”

Fresh-Veg handles an array of products, primarily out of the Nogales, Ariz. Area, Trujillo said.

“We do tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, green beans, corn, hot peppers, tomatillos, watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews,” he said.

The process has also been tested on mangos and grapes, though that is not done regularly, Trujillo said.

In addition to eradicating a wide range of pathogens, acting as an oxidizer, the process is pollution-free, Trujillo said.

Oxygen is run through an electrical grid, binding another oxygen atom to an O2 molecule, creating ozone. This gas is then used for sanitation, and then converts back to oxygen a few minutes later, he said.

“There are no chemicals,” he said. “There is no chlorine or anything dumped. The ozone converts back to oxygen in a few minutes, so we’re not putting anything into the air that’s not natural.”

Ozone process kills bacteria without chemicals
Fresh-Veg Distribution Inc. applies the "ozone process" for cleaning and sanitizing produce to its cucumbers, bell peppers, squash and other items.

Courtesy Fresh-Veg Distribution Inc.