Sales of organic food in the UK grew 5.3% in 2018 to £2.33bn, boosted by consumer interest in free-from options and healthy eating, according to a report by certification body the Soil Association.
The natural progression for every fresh food producer should be to rid their crops of harmful chemicals to meet with these demands, at the end of the day, consumer demand will always depict the success of every product.
So why are consumers demanding organic alternatives to traditionally farmed produce?
There are several reasons for the rise in organic sales:
- Organic fruit and vegetables are fresher (no harmful chemical preservatives are used to prolong shelf life)
- Organic fruit and vegetables have are higher in nutritional value
- No harmful pesticides are found on fruit and vegetables
- They have less impact on the environment
- Organic produce has higher antioxidant levels which is better for your health
- Organically reared animals are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and have space to graze and roam.
These reasons all come down to one thing…transparency. Consumers want to know that the products they are buying are healthy, sustainable and ethical.
You want to make sure that every step of your farming process is as organic and environmentally friendly as possible, right?
You may be a producer who grows, harvests and cleans your crops, or your company may be one of the larger producers who also pack their produce. In this article we want to address the harvesting and packaging stage of the process and let you know how you can introduce a safe and environmentally friendly way to clean and preserve fruit and vegetable as an alternative to harmful chemicals.
Why do organic fruit and vegetables need cleaned?
It could be argued that if crops are grown organically (with no pesticides or chemical fertilisers) producers would not have the same issues as traditional farmers, that being the issue of cleaning the fruit and vegetables before they are packed (other than to wash off residue soil).
The thing is, soil itself can harbour bacteria which can contaminate produce. In some cases, even where organic farming practices are carried out, pesticides can remain in soil for several years after their last application which is transferred to the fruit and vegetables.
Depending on the spraying techniques used on surrounding traditional farms, pesticides can be transferred to other land by wind, rivers or streams and has even been found in rain water.
It is important that organically grown crops are cleaned to ensure there is no chemical residue remaining.
How are fruit and vegetables cleaned?
There are varying methods of post-harvest cleaning methods, each come with their own advantages and disadvantages:
- Heat treatment
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Electrolysed water
Some of these methods are safer and less toxic than others but why take any risk when there are safe alternatives available on the market?
You can read more about these cleaning methods here
A big driver in the changes in traditional cleaning processes is the underlying fear of disinfection by-product in numerous industries. Commonly used chlorine products such as sodium hypochlorite, has already been prohibited in some European countries such as Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium, due to the potential production of toxic by-products.
This in part has exacerbated the problem of already being ineffective leading to food borne outbreaks. Post-harvest washing that was once considered decontamination is now viewed as a high-risk cross-contamination point.
What is a safe method of post-harvest cleaning?
A safe method to rid crops of bacteria is by using electrolysed water.
Electrolysed water is produced by the electrolysis of ordinary tap water containing saline (salt). The electrolysis process produces two separate solutions from a double chambered cell. The positive chamber produces a solution containing a range of oxidisers and a small amount of hypochlorous acid. The negative chamber produces sodium hydroxide.
The resulting solution from the positive chamber is electrolysed water, an effective disinfectant.
Electrolyzed water is known globally by several different names:
- Electrolyzed oxidizing water
- Electro-activated water
- Electro-chemically activated water solution
- Electrolysed water (UK spelling)
Electrolysed water looks and feels just like ordinary water, it is non-toxic and turns back to ordinary water over time. This means that it is safe to touch, consume and return to the environment.
Despite this, it is capable of extraordinary disinfection and is proven to effectively destroy pathogens, including:
• Clostridium difficile
How does electrolysed water kill bacteria?
When immersed in electrolysed water a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism, that can cause disease, will come into contact with powerful oxidants.
In recent years, the word ‘anti-oxidant’ has become increasingly common place when referring to health, food and dietary supplements. So the logical train of thought would suggest that ‘oxidant’ may carry negative connotations.
However, depending on the subject matter, oxidants or oxidisation can become very powerful when used to remove electrons.
When bacteria comes into contact with these oxidants, the electrons are removed, causing the biochemical bonds to rupture and render its function; effectively ‘killing’ the bacteria
This is often described as an 'oxidative stress'.
This oxidative stress leads to a rapid destruction of pathogens, with most bacteria, viruses and fungi being destroyed within two seconds.
What is ORP - Oxidation Reduction Potential?
Oxidation Reduction Potential or ORP for short is a term used frequently in the water treatment & food processing industry.
ORP is a measure of the disinfection potential of the water & its activity on contaminants found in that water.
Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) is a scale used to measure the tendency of a solution to gain electrons from other solutions. Units are in “mV” (millivolts).
The electrolysed water produced from the generators we build, in its pure form, has an ORP of between 1100 – 1200mV making it particularly effective at exerting an oxidative stress on pathogens and its disinfection effect is in the millisecond range rather than seconds.
A generator allows processors to produce an electrolyzed water disinfectant on their own site using nothing more than tap water, salt and a small amount of electricity which is then fogged directly onto harvested produce.
The technology is being used to control pathogens on the surfaces of harvested fruits and vegetables when applied in the form of a “dry fog”, extending shelf life and eliminating the potential for disease outbreaks in consumers.
- Extends the life of produce by one day or more by effectively eliminating microbes
- Electrolysed water is completely safe to the handler, to the consumer and to the environment
- It costs less than 1 pence per litre to produce compared to 50 pence per litre for chlorine
Here are 12 facts about electrolysed water
The birth right of all living things is health. This law is true for soil, plant, animal and man: the health of these four is one connected chain. Any weakness or defect in the health of any earlier link in the chain is carried on to the next and succeeding links, until it reaches the last, namely, man. (Sir Albert Howard 1945)
Where can I buy an electrolysed water generator?
There are 3 companies where you can buy electrolysed water generators in the UK, one being our own company. We design and build the technology as do Aqualution, Envirolyte is solely a distributor.
Envirolyte UK (distributor only)
The electrolysed water produced by each manufacturers generator produces a very similar solution in that they are all safe, effective and sustainable.
You may still have some questions or doubts, here are 5 reasons why an electrolysed water generator MAY NOT be suitable for you
There are a few links in this article so we have popped them below: Sources: How do pesticides affect the environment? (image) Who is Albert Howard? Link to the soil association website Where can you buy an Electrolysed water generator? Bridge Biotechnology Aqualution Envirolyte UK (distributor only) Reading: 5 reasons why an electrolysed water generator MAY NOT be suitable for you Electrolysed water, an alternative to chlorine - 12 great facts