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Firm sees ozone as food disinfectant

Chlorine is banned as a disinfectant for organic food in Europe and the UK  

By CNN's Diana Muriel

LONDON, England (CNN) -- For most of the past century, weapons of war have been used to clean our food.

After World War I, scientists found a new use for stockpiled chemicals like chlorine -- both as a water purifier and as a powerful agent to kill bacteria on food. Before then, ozone -- a naturally occurring chemical compound -- had been used to clean water.

Now a small biotech company in the south of England is pitching the idea of once again using ozone in the food industry.

Nick Adams, CEO of Bioquell, says it's what the public wants.

"People don't actually want to eat food that has been decontaminated using chlorine," he says.

"Ozone, which breaks down to oxygen once it's actually done its job, is environmentally friendly, doesn't taint the food, and you can't smell ozone once its done its job."

Ozone can be used in gas form to kill bugs in a room, but it's more commonly applied as a liquid.

Washing lettuce in ozone can kill bugs in a matter of minutes. They are dissolved into the ozone, which can then be recycled.

But ozone cannot be stored -- it must be generated on site -- and that's expensive: An ozone generator can cost between $30,000 and $140,000.

In the long run, though, it could work out cheaper, says Adams.

"The up-front cost of installing ozone equipment will, after three years, give you an economic payback as compared with chlorine," he says.

"With chlorine you have ongoing costs, and there are some quite significant environmental and safety costs which don't exist with ozone."

In Europe and the UK, chlorine has been banned as a disinfectant for organic food -- a rapidly growing sector of the food industry.

And last July the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ozone to disinfect food.

So will ozone disinfection be the next big thing in the food industry?

Bioquell seems to think all the right ingredients are there to make this technology a success story in 2002.


• Bioquell

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