A review of microbiological safety of fruits and vegetables and the introduction of electrolyzed water as an alternative to sodium hypochlorite solution

Abdulsudi Issa-Zacharia(1),(3)*, Yoshinori Kamitani(2), Happiness S. Muhimbula(3) and Bernadette K. Ndabikunze(3)
1. United Graduate School of Agriculture-Kagoshima University, Laboratory of Food Biosystems Science, 1-21-24 Korimoto, Kagoshima 890-0065, Japan.
2. Department of Environmental Science and Technology, Faculty of Agriculture, Kagoshima University, 1-21-24 Korimoto, Kagoshima 890-0065, Japan.
3. Department of Food Science and Technology, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P. O. Box 3006, Morogoro, Tanzania.
Abstract Over the past few years, food safety has become and continues to be the number one public concern. Considerable progress to strengthen food safety systems has been achieved in many countries, highlighting the opportunities to reduce and prevent food-borne disease. However, unacceptable rates of food-borne illness still remain and new hazards continue to enter the food supply chain. Contaminations in food and agricultural products may occur in every stage of the food supply chain, from the field to the table, that is production, harvesting, processing, storage, and distribution, calling for proper decontamination and ensuring food safety at each of these stages using an effective antimicrobial agent. Several commercial products are available for this purpose, however, most of the available products are seriously hindered by a number of work and environmental safety limitations calling for the development of a new product that is both safe for the environment and workers. In this accord, the use of acidic electrolyzed water (AEW), a new concept developed in Japan, which is now gaining popularity in other countries has been introduced. The principle behind its sterilizing effect is still explored, but it has shown to have strong and significant bactericidal and virucidal, and moderate fungicidal properties. Some studies have been carried out in Japan, China, Korea, Canada, Europe, and the USA on its pre-and post-harvest application in the field of food processing. This review provides an overview of microbiological safety of food and agricultural produces, points out the burdens of food-borne diseases; highlights the drawbacks of currently employed sanitizers and introduces electrolyzed water as a novel non-thermal food sanitizer with a potential of application in the agriculture and food industry.
Conclusion Owing to the particular concern of microbial food safety not only because of the high prevalence of food-borne illness and other hazards associated with food but also because of the considerable economic and social costs, an effective and environmentally friendly antimicrobial agent in the food industry is highly required. Electrolyzed water, therefore, seems to be an available alternative to sodium hypochlorite for microbial control in food and agricultural produces, and its potential need to be more explored.