“Nanosized” droplets of electrically charged water have been shown to inactivate pathogens on the surface of food and could one day become an environmentally friendly way to make food safer. That’s according to a study from researchers at Harvard University published in Environmental Science and Technology and reported on by Chemical & Engineering News. The researchers say that if the technique can be improved, charged droplets of water could be a sustainable replacement to current methods of fruit and vegetable disinfection, which include applying mild bleaches, peroxides, and other chlorine-based solutions. Depending on the type of pathogen, the duration of the exposure, and the surface or food where the pathogen was located, laboratory tests showed that the charged water could eliminate anywhere from 80 to 98 percent of E. coliSalmonella and Listeria. The treatment works by spraying aerosolized water through an electrical field, resulting in charged droplets roughly 25 nanometers in diameter. A strong enough electrical charge will increase the droplet’s surface tension to the point of preventing evaporation. Sensory tests showed that the charged water did not alter the taste or texture of any foods tested. The downside: Current regulation typically requires a 99.999-percent elimination of bacterial loads for similar treatments. The charged water method would need to produce more consistent results — and do so more quickly — to become a viable option for the food industry.

  • Stan T

    Wonder if this will have any adverse health effects.

  • AuntyMM

    i don’t understand why washing them at home in ordinary water won’t get them clean?

    • J T

      Aunty, if the produce is already contaminated, it is almost impossible to get them “clean.” Bacteria can easily infiltrate any small scar, nick, scrape, or even the cut stem end. Once the bacteria is INSIDE the produce, no amount of washing or sanitizing will remove or kill the bacteria. Even if the bacteria is on the outside of the vegetable, they are able to “hold on” to the skin or may be protected by a biofilm that resists cleaners and sanitizers. When vegetable packers use “sanitizers” in their wash water, they are not doing it to “clean” the vegetables… they are doing it to keep the water itself from becoming contaminated and spreading bacteria to other vegetables.

  • Teri

    This concept is 25 years old. Electrostatic spraying was under development for use on crops etc that long ago!