SALINAS, Calif. — FreshRinse or SmartWash, anyone?
Offered by Fresh Express and Taylor Farms, respectively, the technologies show the packaged salad industry’s ongoing commitment to food safety — and to marketing.
Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International — owner of Fresh Express — unveiled FreshRinse, its alternative to chlorine produce washes, Oct. 15 at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010 in Orlando, Fla.
Chiquita chief executive officer Fernando Aguirre compared chlorine to an ancient technology — the abacus — and FreshRinse to Apple’s iPad.
“We believe FreshRinse sets a new standard in food safety,” he said.
Chiquita cited in-house research spearheaded by Fresh Express principal scientist Kai-Lai Grace Ho. It showed that in attached-cell testing, FreshRinse reduced E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella on romaine lettuce and spinach by factors of nine and up compared to chlorine washes, the company said.
“We have seen a significant reduction of potential foodborne organisms that cause disease,” said Mike Burness, vice president of global quality and food safety.
Chiquita plans to make the system available for license development — and to launch a consumer-awareness campaign about it early next year.
Water additive SmartWash is Taylor Farms’ alternative to chlorine-only washes. It’s been used in the Salinas, Calif.-based grower-shipper’s processing operations for three years. Marketing kicked off this year with the formation of subsidiary New Leaf Food Safety Solutions.
“What’s really revolutionary about SmartWash is that it completely eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination within wash water,” said Mark Campion, retail division president.
“It’s not a kill step, but the opportunity for a widespread outbreak is reduced to the chance of an isolated one-off case.”
New Leaf’s website touts third-party findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that SmartWash increases the effectiveness of existing chlorine systems.
Naturally, washes and rinses aren’t the whole of food safety. Testing, audits and consumer and buyer education efforts remain as important as ever.
“Until there’s a kill step that we can use for fresh-cut produce, we’ll test our salads,” said Craig Hope, chief customer officer for San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm.
Earthbound has been testing all lots for pathogens for four years.
“And, like Fresh Express and Taylor, we’re also testing sanitizers and other processing aids that we hope will be more effective than chlorine,” Hope said.
“Based on what we’ve seen in our research projects to date, we’re not ready to make that jump just yet.”
For buyers only, Salinas, Calif.-based foodservice specialist Church Bros. offers an internal food safety website that allows clients to view test results on products they’ve ordered.
That system’s been in place for a couple of years. But this year Church Bros. has plans to increase food safety staff, among other categories, according to Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development.