In the September 2007 article “Clean Technology for Food Service Operations,” I examined the benefits that ozone delivers to the supply side of the food industry and discussed new technologies that are making point-of-use (POU) ozone products accessible and affordable for food service and retail operations. To better understand the benefits ozone delivers to food service and retail operations, we’ll take a closer look at an end user and discuss the application in more detail.
Ozone in the Food Industry
Recent high-profile outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have motivated food safety and quality assurance managers to look for innovative technologies that will help protect their customers. In addition to implementing higher standards with suppliers, companies are looking to increase safety and keep brands out of negative headlines.
Because of the long list of benefits ozone delivers, the most recognizable brands on the supply side of the food industry are using it in many aspects of their operations (treating bottled water, process water loops, facility and equipment sanitation and direct food contact sanitation and disinfection).
Ozone approved by the Food and Drug Administration is the most powerful broad-spectrum microbiological control agent available. It is 50 times more effective than chlorine and kills bacteria 3,000 times faster. Ozone is effective against E. coli, Salmonella and all known bacteria, viruses, yeast, molds and mildew. Because ozone leaves no residual taste or odor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists ozone in the National Organic Program (Section 205.605) as a substance allowed in or on products labeled as “organic” or “made with organics.”
One company that offers POU ozone systems for commercial applications, including food service and retail, is Element Ozone of Benicia, Calif. Element Ozone is a sister company to Pacific Ozone, a supplier of complete ozone solutions to industries with applications in bottled water, process water loops, CIP, groundwater remediation and facility and equipment sanitation.
Element Ozone has taken years of experience with successful industrial ozone sanitation and disinfection systems and packaged the technology and know-how into small, safe and easy-to-use commercial appliances for food service and retail operations. For this application, ozone adds an additional, more effective barrier against contamination while limiting the use of traditional chemicals used for sanitation and disinfection.
On Site with Village Meats
Village Meats, LLC, Lake Tahoe, Nev., is an upscale gourmet meat and seafood market with a deli and a full-service butcher shop. Processing and delivering gourmet meats, seafood, poultry, all-natural prepared foods and specialty food products for private chefs and high-end clientele, owners Eric and Danielle Halstead have earned a grade-A reputation within their community.
Having 27 years of experience in food retail, Eric Halstead participated in the implementation of the first hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) program in Washington, D.C., as meat manager at Quality Food Centers. The Halsteads’ biggest food safety fear is “someone getting sick from something we sold or prepared.”
To protect against food-borne illness or a breakdown in food safety systems and HACCP, Village Meats purchased the Element Ozone FS2180 to add an extra layer of protection against pathogens and chemical toxins. When the Halsteads discovered the strength of ozone as a replacement for chlorine, they decided a more effective antimicrobial system made sense for their operation.
The FS2180 is a complete wall-mounted ozone sanitation system that dispenses ozonated water at a concentration of 2 ppm. The system is designed to mount near the sink and connect to a standard water supply line like a typical reverse osmosis system or ice machine.
Village Meats’ system is mounted between the hand washing sink and the three-compartment sink. The applicator swings between both sinks, taking maximum advantage of its sanitizing power. Eric and Danielle said they “use it every day, all day,” for hand washing, utensils, food contact surfaces, display trays and sanitizing kitchen equipment. Ozone deodorizes their display cases (especially for seafood), ice, equipment parts (such as grinders, saws and other washable equipment parts), cutting blocks (plastic and wood) and other equipment in the sandwich preparation area.
“It deodorizes and whitens cutting blocks and washes whole fish,” Eric said. “As an added benefit, rinsing live clams with fresh ozonated water removes surface bacteria from shells, creating a better sustainable product.”
“We have added ozone as part of the hand sanitation process,” he continued. “We have made it policy that after hand washing, employees are required to rinse their hands under ozonated water. So even if employees just say that they washed their hands in the bathroom, I get additional comfort seeing them sanitizing their hands under ozonated water when they return to work. And employees actually like using ozonated water and comment on how clean our equipment and display cases are.”
“In this industry, everything smells like meat and seafood, even after sanitizing with chlorine,” Eric concluded. “Ozone is extremely effective at cutting that smell, which really improves our working environment.”
Ozone has allowed Village Meats to reduce the smell, harshness and chemical byproducts of chlorine and add an additional layer of protection against contamination for its customers with a safe, renewable, eco-friendly product.
Eric Halstead’s advice to other food service operators who are considering ozone: “Learn more, ask questions and then implement it.”
Partnerships: United Distributors
Taking these innovative ozone products to market requires the right blend of expertise. Element Ozone is working with companies that are recognized as water professionals, offer outstanding service and currently serve food service customers or other commercial businesses that would benefit by adding a POU ozone sanitation system to their operations. One company that helped define the term “water professional” is United Distributors, Inc., Omaha, Neb.
United Distributors provides water treatment solutions to customers throughout the Midwest. The company has installed thousands of systems for a broad range of applications, including residential, food service, commercial, industrial and high-purity medical water. The company’s customers include homeowners, restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets, car washes, office systems, manufacturing plants, hospitals and medical industries, to name a few. With a certified staff possessing more than 75 years of combined experience, customers throughout the Midwest partner with United Distributors because of its experience and expertise in the water treatment industry.
Rory Sherman, president and owner of United Distributors, started the business in 1977. Since that time, Sherman and his team have earned an incredible reputation throughout the Midwest for service and reliability. As a water professional, Sherman was already familiar with ozone when he learned that products were now available for POU applications.
“When I first saw these systems at the WQA show in Orlando, I knew that these were products my customers would benefit from and complement the products and services United Distributors already offers,” Sherman said.
Increased Safety for Multiple Applications
Beyond food service and retail operations, compact ozone sanitation systems deliver benefits for additional applications. Research and development laboratories are replacing chlorine as a sanitizer and are now sanitizing equipment more effectively with ozonated water. Food processing plants and medical facilities are using ozonated water for hand sanitation stations. Home users are even able to wash their produce, meats and seafood effectively and easily with ozonated water.
Ozone is a proven and accepted technology. The effectiveness of ozone as an antimicrobial agent has been documented over and over, and reams of data exist for anyone to review. Bringing advanced ozone sanitation technology from industrial applications to light commercial operations requires the right equipment design that is easy to use, safe, effective and able to deliver real benefits to the end user.
The food service industry and its customers are now benefiting from a new generation of ozone products. As methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) persists in schools, healthcare facilities and fitness centers, more managers are looking to ozone because of its effectiveness against these aggressive bacteria. So do not be surprised when you encounter an ozone hand sanitation station on a cruise ship, in your doctor’s office or at the gym.