With retailers under pressure to meet increasing health and safety standards, it’s no surprise that many of our food & products are coming into contact with Ultraviolet (UV) radiation which is gradually becoming common as a cost effective method of reducing or eliminating pathogens
Ultraviolet wavelengths are classified into three general areas: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. These can be used in numerous processes which respond to the different wavelengths. For example, UV-A has been used for years as the most effective way to cure or ‘dry’ inks in the printing industry, whereas UV-C has been used to disinfect drinking water, air & surfaces. The ultraviolet radiation created by UV is harmful to micro-organisms; it is effective in destroying the nucleic acids in these organisms leaving them unable to perform vital cellular functions.
UV disinfection has been used in hospitals & water treatment facilities for decades and recently mobile UV systems are being used to disinfect a patient’s room following the cleaning process. Tests on a number of pathogens have proven to achieve a 99.9999% disinfection rate in less than 5 minutes. These pathogens require a much higher UV dosage for deactivation in contrast to the relatively weak Ebola virus, which is susceptible to high-levels of ultraviolet germicidal light.
UV-C has also been used in the food & beverage industry as a pathogen reducer. Prompted by the risks of micro-organisms such as E.coli in contaminated foods, the FDA issued a rule called HACCD which requires certain treatment methods to be used in the production of juices, ciders and other produce. It is a very effective method, proven to reduce or eliminate E.coli, Salmonella, Listeria and other bacteria and it takes very little time to work, in some cases taking only 24 seconds to treat 4,000 litres of juice.
The continued research and development into UV applications in this area has seen an increase in its use and progress has meant that even opaque liquids, such as milk, which previously couldn’t be penetrated by UV light are now being treated in this way. With UV applications proven to be perfectly safe and having significant benefits to both the producer and the produce itself, the future certainly seems very bright for UV.