Pass the ozone — and hold the E. coli

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In 2006, several well-publicized outbreaks of food-borne illness spread across the United States, the most infamous being contaminations involving E. coli 0157:H7, a fecal coliform which hitchhiked on packaged spinach, infecting over 190 people in 26 states. The tragic outcome of this epidemic was three deaths from hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication that occurs when the E. coli infection destroys red blood cells, leading to rapid kidney failure.

On the heels of the spinach-related E. coli incidents came an isolated case of botulism food poisoning from improperly stored carrot juice, resulting in the paralysis of a Florida woman.

Then, just in time for the 2006 Christmas holidays, came headlines announcing that E. coli had struck again. At first it was determined that the infection was spread by a batch of green onions, but further investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that the delivery vehicle was packaged iceberg lettuce. The lettuce found its way into a national restaurant chain’s tacos, sickening over 60 people in four states.


Food industry looks to ozone

In the face of so much bad press, intense scrutiny by the FDA and the loss of millions of dollars in sales, growers and food processors have publicly committed to formulate a plan to protect the public against future outbreaks.

The good news is that there are those in the food industry who have already pioneered an advance in food sanitation and disinfection that will help ensure the safety of our food supply — an advance called ozone.


Ozone as a disinfectant

The use of ozone as a disinfectant is not a new idea. In 1840, a German chemist discovered that the passage of dry air through a field of electrical sparks produced a pale blue gas that contained molecules comprised of three oxygen atoms. This molecule was named ozone (O3), an allotrope, or different form, of the common two-atom molecular form taken by oxygen (O2).

It was later discovered that the transfer of ozone gas into water rapidly killed micro-organisms; the ozone then reverted back to the two-atom oxygen molecule. Since that time, purified ozone gas has become the primary water disinfectant used throughout western Europe.


Recent headway in US

In the US, the Sea World theme park was one of the earliest users of ozone as a water disinfectant, with the first installation occurring at its San Diego park in the mid-1960s. The aquarium began using ozone to eradicate fecal E. coli organisms that accumulated from the marine mammal population.

Unlike chlorine, which left behind a chemical residual that could harm tank inhabitants, ozone rapidly decayed back to its parent molecule, the conventional O2 form of oxygen, after oxidizing the bacterial cells. Today, all US aquariums rely on ozone as their primary water disinfectant.

Ozone did not make much headway in US drinking water supplies until 1993, when contamination of the Milwaukee, WI, drinking water system by a chlorine-resistant pathogen, Cryptosporidium parvum (C. parvum), sickened over 400,000 residents, resulting in 111 deaths.


From drinking water to foods

Following the Milwaukee outbreak, laboratory studies revealed that C. parvum was highly resistant to chlorine and able to infect after a 24-hour immersion in bleach. Additional research also discovered that ozone, at concentrations as low as 0.5 parts per million (ppm) would destroy the pathogen in less than 10 minutes.

The tragedy in Milwaukee resulted in a significant change in US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water regulations relating to disinfection. Today, residents in Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas and many other cities consume ozone-disinfected drinking water.

The emergence of ozone as an effective and safe drinking water disinfectant sparked research into other possible applications of this powerful disinfectant, one being the use of ozone as a food sanitizer.


Produce wash

Strickland Foods in Nashville, TN, a provider of packaged fresh-cut produce and salads, pioneered this use of ozone in the late 1990s. Data collected from the Strickland plant and other test sites led to the approval in 2001 by the FDA and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use of ozone as an antimicrobial agent on all foods.

Strickland continues to use ozone as a produce wash and has never experienced an incident of food-borne illness related to their fresh-cut produce and salads.


Extended to food handling

Today, even food handlers are using ozone to ensure against food contamination.

For example, Athens Seafood, a wholesaler-retailer in Athens, GA, has a small, centralized ozone system that supplies ozonated water throughout the store. The ozone-enriched water is used to wash down fish, cutting boards, floors and employees’ hands.

The effectiveness of an ozone wash on sanitizing surfaces was first investigated by Air Liquide, an industrial gas technology company. In its research, surfaces were first inoculated with pathogenic or food-spoilage organisms, then exposed to an ozone wash from a portable ozone wash cart. The results were dramatic, with E. coli destroyed in less than 30 seconds.

In addition to surface sanitation, the store also uses the ozone-charged water to make ozoneenriched ice. Seafood in the store’s display case is packed in this ice to retard spoilage and reduce store odors.


Typical ozone systems

Water treatment professionals interested in offering ozone disinfection to food processors should be familiar with effective ozone systems, which generally consist of the following key components (see photos):

  1.  A source of clean, oil-free, pressurized, dry air (dew point ≤ 60 degrees C [140 degrees F])
  2.  An (optional) oxygen concentrator (dries air and increases the air oxygen concentration to boost ozone production)
  3.  An ozone-generating cell or dielectric
  4. A method to transfer the ozone gas into the water, followed by a method to degas the water (remove any undissolved ozone gas bubbles, followed by the passage of the removed gas through an ozone-destruct, which uses a catalyst to convert ozone back to oxygen)
  5.  An instrument to measure the amount of ozone in the water
  6.  An instrument to monitor the ambient air for concentrations of ozone gas that may have escaped into the immediate working environment. The unit will alarm and shut down the ozone generator if ambient air ozone reaches the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) threshold limit value (TLV) of 0.1 ppm (the recommended maximum concentration of ozone for continuous human exposure over an eight-hour period).

A small ozone system could contain components 1 through 4 on a single skid — measuring, for example, 24” x 28” — with items 5 and 6 installed as wall-mountable instruments.

Larger ozone systems generally require an external air compressor system, either plant air with additional filters and a dryer to prepare it for ozone generation, or a separate air compressor package.

8 g/hr ozone water system
Ozone water system

Systems more compact

With the effectiveness of ozone now recognized by the US EPA, FDA and USDA, the ozone industry is producing smaller, more cost-effective ozone systems that can fit any space and budget.

From small ozone hand-wash stations for food plants and restaurants to skid-mounted equipment for centralized ozone wash systems, the use of ozone, generated from purified oxygen, is expected to grow exponentially in the years ahead.

Ozone technology used for bacterial reductions

Trio create bacteria-eliminating system with ozone tech

PETALING JAYA: Two siblings and a friend have created a bacteria-elimination system using ozone technology, which they bagged an award for at the Malaysia Technology Expo in Kuala Lumpur last month, after being inspired by frustrations in dealing with soiled air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles is what inspired. Bumiputra eEntrepreneurs Azmi Abdul Rahim and his brother Ahmad Zaki Abdul Rahim teamed up with automotive innovator Darren Aster Gunasekera to invent the OTREE air-conditioning bacteria-elimination system using ozone technology. Gunasekera, who founded automotive innovation technology company DAG (after his initials) Electrophonic Sdn Bhd in 1998, said OTREE was a pun for O3, the molecular structure of ozone. “It is the first technology of its kind in the world to disinfect, sanitise and deodorise a vehicle’s air-conditioning system, its cabin and trunk in just with a single application of 10 minutes,” he said. The trio emerged champions, beating more than 500 entries from across the worldworldwide to win the Best of the Best Award at the expo. Malaysia Technology Expo and they went a step further to seek aThey had sought a patent for their product after obtaining a trademark for it last month. Gunasekera said that vehiclevehicle air-conditioning systems were prone to bacteria and mould growth. “Stale air is circulated in air-conditioning vents, which gather dust and bacteria that are hazardous tothat are hazardous to healthinto the system. “Air-conditioning systems need to be cleaned regularly to remove such harmful bacteria and mould. Drivers can get sick from poorly maintained air-conditioning systems,” said Gunasekara, who had also bagged numerous international awards in the automotive industry. Gunasekera said they toyed with the idea of using ozone technology as it was effective in disinfecting ventilation systems and killing bacteria. “Ozone also removes bad odour. With just RM35 for the OTREE treatment, your vehicle will end up smelling like a new car, hence, our tag line, ‘Keep your Car Smelling like New’.” He said Azmi and Zaki approached him as he had invented a machine to clean a vehicle’s interior. “We analysed and tested the OTREE system with international independent laboratory quality assurance company SGS, which confirmed that more than 99 per cent of harmful microbes were killed by our product, which uses the ozone technology, in a single treatment. “This technology is effective in reducing airborne allergens and contaminants, such as cigarette smoke and other foul-smelling substances,” said Azmi, who has 18 years of experience in the automotive industry and a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Zaki said that once they had secured the pending patent, and other formalitiesthey would commercialise their product under Mesra Ekuiti Sdn Bhd, a vendor for Perodua Sales Sdn Bhd. “Our recent achievement has motivated us to improve our product and market it successfully for the benefit of all motorists,” said Zaki, who has 15 years of experience in the automotive industry and a Bachelor of Science degree from Touro University in the United States.

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Ozone helps clean river

5 ozonation plants to treat flowing river

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Ujjain : Simhastha Fair Administration does not want to leave any stone unturned to ensure the best services to visitors arriving during Mahakumbh. Devotees can have bath comfortably in the river as 5 ozonation plants are being setup on the banks of river to treat the water. These plants will ensure supply of oxygen and will keep the impurities away.

Simhastha Clean Kshipra Campaign Sub-committee on Wednesday visited the various ghats of Kshipra and sought information about the working of ozonation plants. PHE superintending engineer Hanskumar Jain told that SFA is setting up 5 ozonation plants at Ramghat, Gaughat, Lalpul, Mangalnath and Narsing Ghat to dissolve 8 percent oxygen in the water. There is only 3 percent oxygen in the water of Kshipra at present. To avoid the possibility of infection after having bath in the river, the ozonation plants costing Rs 9 crore are being setup.

Jain also told that ozone gas helps to prevent the river from being polluted with bath and other activities. Lakhs and crores of devotees are expected to visit the city during Mahakumbh. It would reduce the level of oxygen in the water. Purab Logistics Pvt Ltd Gudgaon Delhi managing director Dr Rajnish Mehra did the inspection of unit setup at Ramghat and informed members that ozonation is a process to treat water in which oxygen is transformed into ozone and is dissolved in the water. This method of water treatment is popular across the globe. The 5 units will consume 100 oxygen cylinders every day and will run 24×7 during fair duration. The output water will be as per the standard of Government of India Class B IS: 2296-1982 BIS standards.  The sub-committee also made inspection of Khan Diversion point located at village Raghowpiplia and observed the preparations. President Mukesh Tatwal, vice-president Mukesh Bhandari and members were present.