E.coli on beef suffers at the hands of EO water

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bacteria Water

Cleaning beef with electrolyzed oxidizing water before processing reduces E. coli. Picture: Yen-Con Hung
Cleaning beef with electrolyzed oxidizing water before processing reduces E. coli. Picture: Yen-Con Hung
Cleaning beef with electrolyzed oxidizing (EO) water before processing reduces E.coli numbers, according to US researchers.

Using EO water can kill shiga-toxin producing E.coli (STEC) on beef, said a University of Georgia study.

EO water is created when a saltwater solution goes through an electrolysis process that separates the water’s positive and negative ions, which makes one very acidic water and the other very alkaline.

Acidic EO water is used to sanitize surfaces and kill bacteria, and the alkaline EO water is used as a detergent.

To inactivate the pathogens, Hung et al applied both streams of EO water to beef hides during processing.

Prevention focus

Yen-Con Hung, a professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said if they can prevent the STEC from getting on the carcass, it can be prevented from getting in the ground beef.

“Alkaline water removes things like fat residues and acidic water actually kills the bacteria,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.com

“This uses both EO water forms; alkaline to clean the hide and acidic to kill the STEC on the surface.

“It is promising with E.coli, how the technology can be incorporated into current processing protocol as we don’t want to interrupt the processing process, the quality of the beef or the cost effectiveness."

The food industry currently uses a chlorine solution among other methods to kill bacteria but acidic EO water can be up to 10 times more effective at killing harmful bacteria than traditional methods, Hung said.

EO water has been used for the past 20 years, with small-scale water producing units available for commercial and home use.

EO water for beef

Hung explained that in the US at least 10 carbonated-beverage bottling plants are using EO water to clean inside mixing tanks, pipes and tubing, so they don’t have to take equipment apart to clean it.

“It has its own special challenges, it is not a straightforward taking of the technology direct to another area, for example beef safety. This is where the research comes in and the needs and challenges of the industry are addressed,” ​he said.

“We hope at the end of the project to have the technology proven and how it can be adapted to work in the beef processing industry. We can introduce it and help equipment manufacturers to design the equipment but it is up to industry to adopt it.”

Some grocery store chains use EO water to keep fresh produce clean by misting the produce and sanitize the areas used to cut fresh fruits and vegetables.

The process had been used to sanitize poultry, kill funguses on nursery-grown plants and remove pathogens from produce.

The project is three years into a five-year, $4.9m grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study ways to kill foodborne pathogens on beef before it arrives on supermarket shelves.

Other technologies are levulinic acid with sodium dodecyl sulfate (LA-SDS) wash (sanitizing wash), infrared (IR) light (non-thermal processing), radio frequency (RF) (thermal processing), ultraviolet (UV) light (non-thermal processing) and UV-activated titanium dioxide (UV-TiO2) (antimicrobial surface coatings).

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