Pathogens and chemical residues present in fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat pose a threat to human health. Each year, millions of people globally suffer from foodborne illness caused by pathogens such as Vibrio cholera, Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Pesticides, including organophosphate, organochlorine, carbamate and pyrethroid compounds, can damage the nervous system and inhibit enzyme production and metabolism, resulting in illness and even death. It is therefore important to clean fresh food properly to reduce these risks.
To support food safety and sanitation practices, ENTEC-NSTDA recently introduced FOODe’ care innovation as a highly effective food wash made from natural ingredients. The innovation was presented at Investment Pitching in APEC BCG Economy Thailand 2022: Tech to Biz (Thailand Tech Show 2022) taking place in Thailand last October.
Dr. Somsak Supasitmongkol, Researcher of ENTEC Low Carbon Energy Research Group explained the origin of this innovation. During the pandemic, ENTEC research team developed disinfectant generator ENcase to fulfil the growing demand for disinfectants. With funding obtained from the National Research Council of Thailand, ENcase machines have been manufactured and delivered to 10 hospitals located in 4 provinces earlier this year.
ENcase converts sodium chloride (NaCI) as a precursor to electrolyzed water via the electrolysis. Electrolyzed water contains hypochlorous acid (HOCl) which acts as a disinfection agent. The research team then explored the application of hypochlorous acid as a food wash. A suitable formula was achieved to create FOODe’ care food wash that can effectively remove chemical residues and pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and fungi, including their spores – from fresh food including fruits, vegetables, and meat. Cleaning with water can remove only 25% of chemical residues present, whereas household products such as baking soda, vinegar, or potassium permanganate can improve the performance to 40-67% but can also compromise taste and color.
Benefits of FOODe’ care include:
- Natural ingredients with hypochlorous acid as the main component, free of alcohol and harmful chemicals.
- Highly effective in removing chemical residues, and 99.9% of pathogens.
- Suitable for cleaning fruits, vegetables, and meat without affecting taste and nutrition.
- Meet the ASTM E1053-20 and AOAC standards of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration.
- Hypochlorous acid is cleared by the EPA and FDA in the US, Japan and Korea for fresh produce and food-contact surface sanitation.
Though hypochlorous acid is commonly used for fresh produce sanitation in several countries, food wash products containing hypochlorous acid are not widely popular in Thailand as only imported products are available on the market and come at a high price. ENcase and FOODe’ care technologies can potentially close this gap. Both technologies are readily available for transfer to local enterprises, making these products accessible to Thai consumers and food processing industry.
ENcase machine produces concentrated disinfectant at a 50 L/hr capacity from inexpensive ingredients which are water and salt. Concentrated disinfectant obtained from ENcase is then diluted prior use for cleaning fresh produce and food-contact surface. While ENcase is a disinfectant generator, FOODe’ care is a ready-to-use fresh food wash.
Dr. Somsak added that the disinfectant market size in Thailand is expected to reach THB 230 million by 2025, thus providing ample growth opportunities for local products. ENcase and FOODe’ care therefore represent promising innovations for Thai entrepreneurs and investors.