Such dramatic reductions weren’t possible as recently as a few years ago. Most traditional air purification systems use filters that are less effective or cleaning methods that are dangerous to humans.
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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2006
Conversely, modern air purification technology works at the molecular level, pumping reactive oxygen species into the environment. The unstable nature of these reactive oxygen species allow them to combine with carbon-based molecules such as molds, bacteria, and other organic pathogens. This process of oxidation neutralizes the germs.
Better still, this type of air purification can run around the clock, and is harmless to humans. This maintains a constant state of cleanliness and reduces bacteria on exposed surfaces in a produce storage warehouse, food processing plant, tractor trailer, box car or supermarket display case.
Compare that to chemical processes, which can be harmful to humans, must be applied on-schedule, have limited efficacy, and can be resisted by mutating strains. That said, air purification is but one of many solutions that are more effective and efficient than established methods.
These include empowering food scientists, microbiologists and quality assurance experts in determining company operating procedures and making budgetary decisions. Virtually every respectable grower, food processor and retailer spends considerable sums to sustain minimum safety levels. But that doesn’t mean they’re spending money in the right places.
Involving scientific and QA experts can change that. For example, increased cleaning cycles might be more affordable and effective for a food processor than a new sanitation tool. On the other hand, a new packaging system might greatly reduce contamination by ensuring that food is always sealed tightly, safe from pathogens.
Experts have also helped retailers reduce the risk of spreading pathogens by facilitating investments in additional display cases, which better separates produce, meat, poultry, seafood and dairy prepared dishes. This reduces cross-contamination among foods that spoil on different timelines.
Consumers don’t stop to think that the pineapple in their cart was picked in a field in Costa Rica, the Philippines, Thailand, or some other foreign country, trucked to a port, loaded on a ship bound for America and then loaded on another truck that finally delivered the pineapple to their neighborhood market.
And they probably don’t worry whether the pineapple’s field of origin was irrigated with polluted water, or wonder if the people who handled the pineapples have sanitary lavatory and wash facilities. They don’t ask if the ship was shuttling live chickens alongside their pineapple cartons, or if that last truck was sanitized after its previous load.
No consumer can ever be sure about the safety of their food. Instead, they count on the world’s growers, processors, and retailers to take every precaution necessary to ensure the foods they put on their family’s plates are as fresh and clean as possible.
To continue deserving that trust, the produce and processing industries need to update safety standards for the 21st century food chain by continuously evaluating and adopting new safety measures.
Bob McDonald is president and CEO of AirOcare (Rockville, Md), a manufacturer of air purification and sanitation systems used in numerous industries. Reach him at 888-368-2232.