Ozone treatments for the reduction of the microbial load
The microbial decontamination technology based on the use of ozone (O3) is one of the innovative sanitation methods that allow to inactivate a wide range of microorganisms and spores distributed on the surface of solid products or present in liquids. Therefore, it is a process of stabilization aimed at prolonging the preservation of fresh products or subject to packaging (“IV gamma” products). May also represent a phase of the treatment of liquid waste.
Treatment plants of fresh food or “IV gamma” products.
Principle of operation
The technique consists in bringing into contact the products with gaseous ozone or by washing with ozone dissolved in water (ozonated water). The microorganisms are inactivated due to the high oxidative capacity of ozone towards the main vital components of the cells and, in particular, of the bacterial cellular membrane causing its lysis. Treatments can be applied to the surface of the food, for the disinfection of water, to other liquid and solid products.
The know-how of ProdAl includes the theoretical knowledge of the process, the availability of predictive models and previous studies on certain micro-organisms and products, and the development of a cell on laboratory scale for the testing of different food products. It is in the testing phase the coupling of this technique with other preservation methods (MAP).
Were identified vegetable products for which the technique can be reasonably proposal.
Technological benchmark vs state of the art
In Europe there is a good theoretical knowledge and the operation of some washing/sanitizing plants, especially for products of vegetable origin or disinfection of drinking water or wastewater. However, there aren't worldwide in-depth studies on the treatment of fresh vegetables or “IV gamma” products. The key feature of the technology is the use of a physical agent of microbial decontamination which tends to decompose in a relatively short time in oxygen without trace in the treated products. In this context, it is now of particular interest the development of stabilized products (presumably for the circuit of refrigerated foods) which present a good shelf life and the absence of traces of chemical compounds and unwanted thermal effects. Significant advantages over thermal treatments or more complex physical treatments have already emerged and the ability to apply this technology also to products of low added value.
- Effect of microbiological stabilization of physical type, as a "cold" technique and without contact with chemical compounds.
- Rapid decomposition of O3 in O2.
- Simplicity of the process (O3 generator and contact system (only for liquids)).
- Ease of control and regulation of the process.
- Easy integration with other preservation techniques (MAP).
- Limited cost of the process and consequent applicability to products of not so high added value.
- Gas highly unstable whose decomposition rate into molecular oxygen is function of temperature.
- Need to produce ozone directly at the point of application and quick to use.
- Availability of efficient generation systems of O3 gas (conversion yield of O2 to O3).
- Availability of efficient systems for O3-Liquid (H2O) contact for the production of ozonated water.
Stage of development of ProdAl
The technology is at the stage of pre-competitive development especially regarding the realization of an efficient contact between ozone (gaseous or dissolved in water) and product to be treated The prototyping and the subsequent industry technology transfer requires time and modest investments for the simplicity of the technology.
ProdAl has developed its know-how on the mechanism of microbial stabilization and conducted experimental work on the application to certain commodity sectors (in the next figure is shown in orange the stage of development of ProdAl research in this technology).
It is, therefore, able to offer assistance in the development of new products and the determination of optimum operating conditions also through experimentation.
Of particular interest is the use of ozonated water that constitutes, at the same time, a means of washing and microbial inactivation.
Companies of fruit and vegetable sector, canning, pharmaceutical and medical field.
Forms of collaboration
- Agreements for the prototyping and the market launch of new products O3 treated, with a view to partnership in the sale.
- Consulting for the evaluation of the quality and shelf life of new products as function of treatment conditions.
- Consultations on the industrial exploitation of the technology with impact on research activities.