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Chlorine dioxide pouches

A small, plastic pouch could soon be making the nation’s produce safer
Photo courtesy of USDA

E.coli, salmonella, and other pathogens on fruits and vegetables can make people sick if the produce isn’t well washed or cooked. As a preventive measure, chlorine, chlorine dioxide gas and other sanitizers have been used to sanitize produce. But packaging chlorine dioxide in a proprietary plastic pouch is a first. 

Jinhe Bai is the research chemist on the project with the USDA’s Horticultural Research Laboratory, and Liz Baldwin is a research leader.  Baldwin says the pouch is half the size of a credit card, and has a semi-permeable membrane that vents the gas at a controlled rate.

"Which we could put in fruit clamshells, or boxes of fruit, or what have you, to have a slow release of chlorine dioxide during transport, storage, etc.," she says. "So, this technology is also scalable in the form of slow-release packets for produce to meet the demands for each type of produce, or the storage situation or the transport situation."

When researchers put the pouches into cartons of grapefruit using typical packing, shipping and storage conditions, they found ten-times fewer bacterial and fungal pathogens than on grapefruit stored without pouches.

Baldwin says the treatment doesn’t affect the taste of the produce.

"If you use it as too high a level, it could bleach the fruit so you have to find the right spot but it really will prevent decay of the fruit," she says. "Both plant pathogens which cause fruit decay, and human pathogens which would be harmful to humans."

Baldwin says the packets aren’t available yet, they’re waiting on regulatory approval.

Learn more about chlorine dioxide pouches in produce

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