Thursday, January 19, 2012


Sanitizing food handling areas is assuming more and more importance against the background of increasing bacterial food poisoning episodes occurring in many parts of the world. Good old chlorine is considered the industry standard for sanitization and is widely used by the potable water industry with telling effect. However handling chlorine is fraught with some risks and any alternative should be welcome to the industry. it is against such a background that the new sanitizing agent electrolyzed water (EW) was developed as a green alternative. From the following accounts it is clear that this product may eventually replace chlorine gas as the industry standard, the only limitation being the capital cost and recurring expenses in producing electrolyzed water.

"The process works by passing a low-voltage electrical current through salt water, which separates the water's sodium and chloride ions. The sodium ions are then exposed to a negative electrical charge, which creates sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye. The chloride ions are exposed to a positive electrical charge, which turns chloride into hypochlorous acid - the active sanitizing ingredient in bleach. The solutions are then stored in two 55-gallon tanks where employees can fill up spray bottles without having to worry about mixing or spilling the product, Fitzgerald said. In the past six months, Massachusetts-based Lynnfield Green Technologies has sold 10 devices, which have been shipped to schools and companies that use the solutions to clean everything from cafeterias to semi-trailer trucks, according to the company's cofounder, Patrick Lucci. Lucci helped enhance the technology while working at Electrolyzer Corp., a Woburn-based start-up, in 2006. In 2009, Ecolab Inc. purchased Electrolyzer Corp. without bringing the technology to market. Lucci, eager to keep the idea alive, started Lynnfield and partnered with PathoSans, a subsidiary of Spraying Systems, a global manufacturer of industrial spray products, to sell PathoSans's version of the device. The solutions are being used throughout the Endicott House, in guestrooms, conference rooms, and the kitchen. Executive chef Eddie Cerrato, one of 50 staff members at the conference center, said he uses the hypochlorous acid cleaner to sanitize everything from meat thermometers to Endicott's freight elevator. "Bleach used to be the disinfectant in every kitchen but it eats into plastic,'' Cerrato said. "This solution is idiot-proof.'' He said rashes and skin problems from working with chemicals have since disappeared. Yen-Con Hung, who studies electrolyzed water's effect on food safety at the University of Georgia's Department of Food Science and Technology, said the water "has a good cleaning effect,'' if it is used according to the direction. "For cutting boards, sodium hydroxide is effective in removing fat and protein,'' Hung said.But Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, said many consumers expect green cleaning products to be evaluated and approved by certification companies such as EcoLogo or Green Seal".

Sodium hypochlorite solution in which nascent chlorine is entrapped, is already in use by many and is a house hold beach with considerable popularity. In what way EW is superior is not clear. Standard hypochlorite solutions with 1-12% dilution are already available in the market though presence of alkali in these preparations are known to weaken textile fibers on prolonged contact. EW is not a panacea as being claimed because it is not very stable losing its potency in a few hours of storage. Probably installing an electrolyzer in one's own premises may provide the convenience in producing EW as when necessary for immediate use.  


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