UVC and Foodborne Pathogens
It really works when UVC runs. When used properly, it can kill up to99 a percent of pathogens. This is why UVC treatment has been used forsterilising equipment in clinical and laboratory settings for many years. It'sonly in the last few years that UVC has started to take off for personal use,especially given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
But in various contexts, there are a lot of legitimate questions andconcerns about the safety of using UVC disinfection. And so rightfully. UVC isan exceptionally strong form of ultraviolet radiation that, when not usedcorrectly, can be dangerous to humans. We are almost never exposed to thesehigh-frequency light waves because almost all the UVC emitted by the sun isblocked by the atmosphere. However, in mere minutes, exposure to artificial UVC light cancause sunburn.
Whether it can be used safely to disinfect food is one of the safetyconcerns that have emerged around UVC. The answer depends on how you use it, asis the case for most UVC applications.
UVC HasBeen Shown to Kill Foodborne Pathogens
There is little doubt that the bacteria that can cause food-borne diseasescan be killed by UVC light. UVC can kill almost all living cells. The challengeof using UVC for food-borne pathogens, however, is ensuring that the pathogensare exposed to them.
UVC has been shown to kill pathogens on the surfaces of fruits inlaboratory settings. A Washington State University study exposed apples, pears,strawberries, raspberries, and cantaloupe to different intensities of UVClight. They discovered that UVC was able to kill about 99.9% of E. On thesurfaces of the fruit, coli and Listeria bacteria.
Importantly, UVC light in the food itself also causes little perceptiblechange. UVC is really dangerous only when the light rays themselves are exposedto you. It leaves no residue. So in consuming food that has been exposed to UVClight, there is virtually no danger.
UVC CanAlso Help Improve Shelf Life
UVC can be helpful in increasing the shelf life of natural food products,just like any method of disinfection. The potential of UVC and cooling to alterthe shelf life of various fruits was examined in another, more recent study.They found that the shelf life of the fruits was extended by both methods.Slight changes in the levels of antioxidants in the fruits were also caused byUVC, enriching them in some but reducing their capacity in others. The broaderoutcome, however, is that UVC can be used to keep foods fresh longer because ithas powerful disinfection properties. This is particularly important fororganic farmers and distributors, because one of the main challenges ofproducing food without chemical additives is the maintenance of shelf life.
Challengesof Using UVC for Food
In general, the biggest challenge with UVC is ensuring that the desiredsurfaces are adequately exposed to light. UVC only works when pathogens arebathed in light waves of UVC, which in a food processing context can be difficultto implement.
There are often textured surfaces in foods that create microscopic shadowswhere microbes can hide. To ensure that all surfaces are exposed, rotatingfootings under light can mitigate this. In addition, UVC can't sterilise alarge pile of food efficiently. A rotten apple at the bottom of a large barrel,even if the barrel is exposed to UVC light, will still cause others to rot. Inorder for UVC to be successful, food must be adequately spread out, so it mustbe worked into the appropriate production process depending on the product.
For instance, before they are grouped together for shipment, UVC will workbetter at disinfecting apples.
Another challenge is that in cold and moving air conditions, some UVCsystems, particularly older ones, lose some of their effectiveness, i.e.precisely the kinds of conditions present in most food processing and packagingprocesses.
However, this issue is addressed by more advanced goods by novelmechanisms that can differ with the form of food being disinfected. Forexample, the extended protective version of the UV Photons C110 P series usesspecial UV-C lamps covered in a UVC FEP cover to shieldthe lamps from shattering glass, offering an ideal solution for disinfectingfood processing plant applications.
So, as with any UVC system, adapting your system to your circumstances andneeds is the most important way to ensure its effectiveness. But UVC provides asafe and effective means of sanitising food and other surfaces with the correctsetup. Click here to visit our Products Page to explore UVC systems from UV Photons.