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Sustainable Sanitation in the food industry

By: , Posted on: May 1, 2018

In the modern food industry, the equipment comes every day into contact with different products and is, therefore, a potential carrier of food-borne pathogens. The cleaning and sanitizing procedures for the equipment that comes into direct contact with foods are essential to reduce the risk of product contamination. They are performed with different chemical and psychochemical decontamination techniques. However, some of these techniques possess numerous drawbacks, such as: high cost, remaining chemical residues, low efficacy, adverse effects on the quality of foods and negative impact on the environment.

Nowadays, specialists are looking for the development of innovative, gently and eco-friendly cleaning and sanitizing procedures. In this line, EW (Electrolyzed Water) – an eco-innovative sanitizer and cleaner, is currently being seen as a novel technology to meet all of these challenges. EW is more eco-friendly than NaClO and is not potentially harmful for human health. EW is an effective agent for CIP of food processing and handling equipment and it has been found to be very effective both as a cleaning and as a sanitizing agent. Indeed, its application eliminates costly cleaning chemicals and erases many of the dangers associated with storing. EW is produced in an environmentally friendly manner from NaCl and distilled water. It returns to its normal form after usage and poses no threat to humans and the environment. Humans are unaffected by exposure to EW, as long as it is not orally ingested and their eyes are not exposed.

The main advantage of EW is its ability for on-site production, thus circumventing problems associated with chlorine during transport, storage and handling. EW is active against a broad spectrum of bacteria and possesses nonselective antimicrobial properties, whereas it is hypothesized that this does not promote the growth of bacterial resistance. In addition, the sensory quality of foods is not negatively affected by the use of slightly acidic, neutral and slightly alkaline EW. The cost of chemical salts, the electricity charges and water are the major operating expenses involved in running the EW production machine, besides the initial investment in purchasing the EW generator. Another advantage of using electrolyzed water as a CIP reagent is its safety. Using EW for CIP procedures has the potential to reduce the cost of CIP cleaning, too. Neutral EW can be used to sanitize food-contact surfaces and is environmentally friendly since it only uses salt and water to produce the chemical solution. Thereby, there are no problems on handling the solution when it comes in contact with organic matter or when diluted with tap water it can be safely discarded. In the presence of organic matter neutral EW generates lower amounts of organochlorinated molecules than NaOCl.

If you find this story stimulating, you may be interested in browsing more content within this book on ScienceDirect. We are pleased to offer you a free chapter – access this content by clicking on this link – Elucidating Local Food Production to Identify the Principles and Challenges of Sustainable Agriculture.

The drawbacks that need to be considered include the relatively high initial cost of equipment the short shelf life, the tendency for EW to lose its antimicrobial potential quickly, if it is not continuously supplied with Cl2, H+, HOCl by electrolysis, and the corrosion caused by the free chlorine content or high ORP during the use of acidic EW. The corrosiveness of acid acidic EW was due to its low pH and high ORP. To address this drawback, two potential solutions could be considered: using neutral EW with less corrosive characteristics, which can be produced by mixing acid acidic with alkaline EW after electrolysis and adding the corrosion inhibitors to the acidic EW. Cleaning and sanitizing of food processing equipment should be optimized to ensure food safety. From this point of view, EW has been employed as a novel sanitizing agent to reduce the microbial count on food contact surfaces to acceptable levels. The use of acidic EW solution has effectively reduced the microbial populations on metallic and polymeric surfaces. EW has been approved by United States regulators as a replacement for harmful chemicals and as a green and sustainable solution for use at home and in the industry. There are diverse points of view on the sanitizing applications and regulations of EW in different sectors around the globe.

In the European Union, EW can only be applied to drinking water and its use on food products such as meat and fish is not permitted, because of its properties of protein inactivation. However, in the U.S., it is used for drinking, cleaning and sanitizing purposes. Recently, United States Department of Agriculture approved the application of EW in organic products. Many chemical industries do not possess sufficient knowledge on EW, and more advertisement is required to introduce it in the industry. Superior cleaning and sanitizing without the need for heating offers reduced cleaning times and increased food plant running times. Cleaning and sanitizing at ambient temperature reduces the energy consumed for the process. Using just salt and water to create the fluids, both the cleaner and sanitizer are inherently safe and produce a safer, easy-to-handle waste water stream. Typically, the time savings is over 50 % and in many cases, this saves hours for CIP. For product changeover CIP processes, the typical time for EW is 15 min or less – a significant savings compared to the previous technology which takes around one hour. Traditional CIP technology uses concentrated chemicals shipped to site which are often applied at elevated temperatures.  Electrolyzed Water is produced on site in volumes to match site demands at any particular time, eliminating waste production and reducing water consumption.

Sustainable Food Systems from Agriculture to Industry: Improving Production and Processing addresses the principle that food supply needs of the present must be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Responding to sustainability goals requires maximum utilization of all raw materials produced and integration of activities throughout all production-to-consumption stages. This book covers production stage activities to reduce postharvest losses and increase use of by-products streams (waste), food manufacturing and beyond, presenting insights to ensure energy, water and other resources are used efficiently and environmental impacts are minimized.

Key Features

  • Addresses why food waste recovery improves sustainability of food systems, how these issues can be adapted by the food industry, and the role of policy making in ensuring sustainable food production
  • Describes in detail the latest understanding of food processing, food production and waste reduction issues
  • Includes emerging topics, such as sustainable organic food production and computer aided process engineering
  • Analyzes the potential and sustainability of already commercialized processes and products

Maricica Stoica (authoring Chapter 9, Sustainable sanitation in the food industry) is Lecturer Phd Engineer at Dunărea de Jos University of Galati – Romania. She teaches at specialized Master in Food Science and Engineering, and guided several PhD students. She received her PhD in Industrial Engineering (Food safety, Hygiene, General Microbiology, Materials Science, Electrochemical and imagistic techniques) and she has completed her postdoctorate at Dunărea de Jos University. She is coauthor of the Book Design elements for new food products (Romania, edited by Academica), and for 3 book chapters published by Elsevier, In-Tech, and Formatex Research Center. She presented/published around 50 research papers in international and national conferences, and published around 30 scientific articles. She has coordinated the POSDRU/161/2.1/g/138177 project, and collaborated on projects funded through EU. A big part of her research was focusing on electrochemical behaviour of stainless steel surfaces in solutions consisting of biocides and microbial suspension. You can contact Maricica via

Charis M. Galanakis (book’s editor) is an interdisciplinary scientist with a fast-expanding work that balances between food and environment, industry, and academia. His research targets mainly the separation and recovery of functional macro- and micromolecules from different food by-products, as well as their implementation as additives in food and other products. He is the coordinator of Food Waste Recovery Group of ISEKI Food Association (Vienna, Austria) and R&I director of Galanakis Laboratories (Chania, Greece). He serves as an editorial board member and subject editor of Food and Bioproducts Processing and Food Research International, and he has edited 9 books with Elsevier. See his full portfolio of books here.

Follow Dr. Galanakis via Twitter – @CharisGalanakisLinkedIn or ResearchGate.
Join the Food Waste Recovery Group on LinkedIn or the Food Waste Recovery Page on Facebook.

If you find this story stimulating, you may be interested in browsing more content within this book on ScienceDirect. We are pleased to offer you a free chapter – access this content by clicking on this link – Elucidating Local Food Production to Identify the Principles and Challenges of Sustainable Agriculture.

Need a copy? Visit and use discount code STC317 at checkout to save up to 30% on your very own copy!

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Food Science & Nutrition

The field of food science is highly interdisciplinary, spanning areas of chemistry, engineering, biology, and many more. Researchers in these areas achieve fundamental advances in our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and food-borne illness, and develop new technologies, like food processing methods and packaging material. Against a backdrop of global issues of food supply and regulation, this important work is supported by Elsevier’s catalog of books, eBooks, and journals in food science, considered essential resources for students, instructors, and health professionals worldwide. Learn more about our Food Science and Nutrition books here.