Chiquita project adviser Michael Osterholm, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, said it’s appropriate to include Fresh Rinse in advertising.
“This is not about (Chiquita) gaining an advantage, this is really pulling the entire industry up to a new level,” Osterholm said. “Any time you have an advance like this, it really isn’t marketing food safety. We want to get information out. If this was really a marketing issue, this company would keep it unique to themselves and try to sell product based on that.”
Osterholm said Chiquita is offering the process to other companies through licensing agreements — a sign that Chiquita’s goal is to enhance overall produce safety.
“One can never, nor should one ever, market on food safety as an issue,” he said. “It should really be the entire industry.”
Stallman said food safety is a secondary issue for consumers — but worth addressing.
“Freshness and taste are the primary purchase drivers,” he said. “Safety is a kind of back-of-the-mind concern. The key thing is to make sure consumers know our products are consistently delivering fresh, high-quality salad. But Fresh Rinse adds a nice layer to help answer some of those back-of-the-mind questions.”
The fine print in ads compares Fresh Rinse to traditional chlorine washes, but the main text mentions only Fresh Rinse, Stallman said.
Chiquita makes strong claims for Fresh Rinse. It plans to back them up in a peer-reviewed scientific paper, “Efficacy of a Novel Sanitizer Comprised of Lactic Acid and Peroxyacetic Acid,” that’s been accepted for publication by The Journal of Food Protection, said Kai Lai “Grace” Ho, the company’s principal scientist and the technology’s inventor.
It’s the first of two planned papers, Ho said. A publication date has not been set.
Among the claims are that Fresh Rinse kills 1 million times or more E. coli 0157:H7 and salmonella pathogens floating in wash water than chlorine washes. Reduction factors for cells attached to romaine lettuce, Ho said, were almost 500 times for E. coli and 100 for salmonella.
At the PMA convention, Burness said, Chiquita made commitments on Fresh Rinse that it has followed through on. The newly announced peer-reviewed paper was one. Another involved holding meetings soon after the convention between Chiquita officials; Dave Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at United Fresh Produce Association; and Bob Whitaker, PMA chief science and technology officer.