special newsletter: hygiene, cleaning and sanitation

RGF: Sanitation tunnels going to the US Embassy in Baghdad

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: RGF
Picture: RGF

Related tags Ultraviolet

Three sanitation tunnels from RGF Environmental Group are going to the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

The patented Photohydroionization (PHI) process is a chemical-free and natural oxidation technology, which uses broad-spectrum ultraviolet light rays with a catalytic target that produces hydroperoxides among other things that go out into the environment.

They mix with the air or food surface to seek out and destroy the pathogen without affecting the taste or appearance of the product and then revert back to hydrogen and oxygen once it depletes.

The firm said the Food Surface Sanitation Tunnel system provides direct 360-degree surface application on all exposed surfaces resulting in 99.9% surface microbial reduction.

Applications of a different nature

Bill Svec, VP of water and food products for RGF Environmental Group, said it was a little bit different from the normal application, in that it is going into a war zone.

“They are going to be in sealed rooms inside the US Embassy for the personal and staff on the ground. Most applications for these types of products are going into proteins, beef, pork, chicken, fish and we have ventured out into some vegetables and fruits,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“They found us online, they were looking for an additional final intervention step in their food safety process so they took note of what we had to offer and started a conversation. The company that is purchasing it has a government contract and is based out of Dubai but the end user is the US Government at the embassy.

“They are going to be treating all their fruits and vegetables all the way up from grapes to watermelons, celery, herbs like rosemary, thyme and cilantro, so it’s a wide range they are going to be running through it.”

Svec said it was a lengthy process that started in summer as there was a lot of back in forth information sharing.

“Whenever we do these sanitation tunnels there is a lot of information that we need to have because they are all custom built for the application,” ​he said.

 “You have to find out the smallest product that is going to go through, the largest, the heaviest, the nature of it, if there is a processing speed we have to match so we don’t interfere with their production so there is a lot of information sharing upfront.

“The units right now are in production and slated to be shipping either by the end of the year or early 2017.”

Svec added it was working with Chipotle to increase food safety in their restaurants.

“Their claim has always been that they have fresh ingredients and food and when you do that sometimes you run the risk of having issues with pathogens and so forth and they had more or less a double hit,” ​he said.

“They experienced an E. coli outbreak followed right up with a norovirus outbreak so they took a pretty hard hit in the press because of that but they are doing the right thing and being proactive in addressing every aspect of their facilities now and that is where we came in.

“They brought onboard Dr James Marsden to head up their food safety department and he was a regent’s distinguished professor at Kansas State University for a very long time and participated in a lot of the validations of our technology. So he was very familiar with the capabilities of what we could offer and got us in touch with them and we are doing business with them.

“Going up chain with their suppliers, we are now talking to a lot of companies that supply tortillas and things and we are going to be incorporating tunnels or what we call panels where we are just treating the tops of products into those facilities.”

Use of oxidation technology

Svec said there was growing awareness of oxidation technologies in the food processing industry.

“I am seeing more and more where people are talking about or experimenting with oxidation technologies such as ultra violet light or ozone,” ​he said. 

“Another one that has become fairly commonplace is PCO, it is something we have done and do on a limited basis but the PHI technology we mostly use is a proactive technology, PCOs also use a UV light and a catalyst but you have to bring the contaminant to that catalyst, it has to touch that surface for it to be destroyed so it is not as effective.

“We have product that can be exposed to as little as 15 seconds and others that go up to two minutes. We can adjust the travel speed of the conveyor belt going through the tunnel or sometimes we have to increase the length to allow the exposure time, so we’ve done these up to about 60 feet in length.

“What we do is non-penetrating, anytime you have product already in packaging we can’t affect it. Same thing if you have product stacked on top of each other or covering each other you have to be able to see the surfaces in order to attack it.”

Svec said it has an R&D department and is working on future technologies that he described as ‘very promising’.

“They will mostly be UV light based but unique in their abilities. People ask who our competition is, it is just other oxidation technologies, there isn’t any technology that mirrors what [PHI] does,” ​he said. 

“A lot of the people we talk to, they contact us as they are trying to find other solutions to eliminate the use of chemistry. We are always looking for technologies and the markets that are not saturated by a lot of other companies.”

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