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Making Food Safety Sustainable

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At first glance, the idea of food safety being environmentally sensitive seems extraneous. After all, the sole purpose of food safety is to make food safe — period. In the mind of most consumers, the procedures used are ancillary to the end result. Pasteurization has long been accepted, but other measures, such as irradiation, are only tolerated because everyone understands — and accepts — the necessity of its use.

fish_sign.jpgThat’s why it’s heartening to read about elements of sustainability in some newer food safety programs. Even better, some of the leaders in this area of the business are making ecology a foundation of their offerings. Here are alternatives that are just as effective as their predecessors, yet eco-friendly and therefore, better for consumers.

The first program that came to my attention comes from Eco-Safe Systems, based in Los Angeles (Purfresh is another company known to the industry). The company’s systems — applicable across the entire supply chain — use ozone to protect food and water supplies against the usual suspects in food poisoning, including salmonella, listeria and E. coli. That means there’s no chlorine, pesticides and bactericides residues on food.

According to Eco-Safe’s internal reviews, ozonated water systems are 3,000 times more effective than chlorinated water; treating produce, meats, poultry and fish in ozonated water also seems to increase shelf life. Nearly 75% of grocery stores reported a decrease in shrink by a minimum of 25%, according to company research.

This system is being used by numerous restaurants and supermarkets around the country, including Whole Foods Market and most recently at KTA Super Stores in Hawaii.

Another company, Global Food Technologies, San Ramon, Calif., has introduced iPura, a food safety system that uses an organic wash, pressure and temperature to do the un-dirty work of destroying pathogens.

According to officials, iPura consists of a flight of “science-based processes and proprietary hardware that perform non-thermal microbial interventions and ‘organic clean-steps’ conducted at the processing point — prior to packaging.” The company recently reeled in a big fish when Safeway, Pleasanton., Calif., began selling iPura-certified tilapia in its seafood departments.

Let’s hope retailers and the entire food industry encourage the development and use of these food safety techniques. Using nature to fight nature helps expand the sustainability umbrella that's covering more and more of the food industry, from production to processing to retail displays.

Surely, if the universe gave us nasty food bugs, then it must also have provided us with a natural way to fight back. We just have to discover them.

(Photo credit: A Girl And Her Camera/Jen)

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