Ozone gas can help clean produce

June 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The number of illness linked to a salmonella outbreak in tomatoes has now risen to 228 and cases are being reported in 23 states.

Silicon Valley has developed technology to make our food supply safer. Ozone already used to purify bottled water, including the Arrowhead and Dasani brands.

Executives at Fremont-based Purfresh believe it would make our food supply safer. The $7 trillion a year food industry has been hit by salmonella this year and by E. coli bacteria last year.

"It's a very powerful disinfectant, and it leaves no chemical residue or disposal. And the other way, as I mentioned, is to provide ozone gas at very low levels in a cold storage environment to kill both airborne and surface pathogens," said Cope.

These are new ozone units ready for shipment to Greece and Mexico. Purfresh has customers in 22 countries.

"Ozone works by actually taking O2, which is the oxygen we breathe, electrifying it and turning it into O3, which is fairly unstable. When O3 comes in contact with a microorganism, it actually lices the microorganism and then in doing so, turns back into pure oxygen," said Cope.

Company CEO David Cope believes ozone is a better solution than chlorine, fungicides or pesticides. It also does not compromise organic certified produce.

Purfresh also has developed technology to track and monitor the location and storage conditions of shipping containers as they move across oceans. That could help identify a suspect shipment in the event of an outbreak.

"Certainly by implementing solutions like ours and others, you can reduce your risk, and that's really the name of the game is along the entire supply chain, every step you take to reduce the risk," said Cope.

The Food and Drug Administration approved ozone treatment of food seven years ago.

Every consumer wants confidence that eating fresh produce will be safe. Silicon Valley is doing what it can to help make that possible.


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