At the Center for Produce Safety’s June 28 research symposium, a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s environmental microbial and food safety laboratory reported on tests she and other scientists ran on New Leaf Food Safety Solutions’ proprietary product. New Leaf Food Safety Systems is a sister company of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms.
Yaguang “Sunny” Luo and seven scientists spent three weeks conducting in-field tests in Salinas. Luo said the researchers inoculated spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens with E. coli and washed them as well as non-inoculated control samples with the rinse, also known as T128. She said the SmartWash treatment retained higher levels of chlorine when the chlorine approached depletion while the E. coli survived in the non-T128 treated wash.
“T128 improved the chlorine’s efficacy in preventing pathogen cross contamination,” Luo said. “Extensive lab and pilot studies demonstrated that T128 was able to significantly reduce the potential for pathogens to survive and spread in the wash system when chlorine approaches depletion due to high organic load. During chlorine depletion is when pathogen’s survival in cross-contamination becomes a major problem.”
While the USDA research focused on lettuce and spinach, Luo said the scientists also saw significant reductions of E. coli in tomatoes and salmonella in cantaloupe. Following a massive outbreak recently linked to sprouts in Europe, Luo said researchers want to examine T128’s effect on sprout seeds.
New Leaf is licensing the product to companies in the U.S. and Mexico, said Jim Brennan, New Leaf’s president. He said several other companies and industry suppliers are using the product.
New Leaf launched SmartWash in August, and Brennan said up to 2.5 billion pounds of vegetables have gone through the treatment.
“It works and prevents cross contamination and slows the consumption of chlorine,” he said. “It makes the chlorine lethality much more effective at lower levels.”
Mike Spinazzola, president of DRS Inc., San Diego, which procures produce for Subway, noted competitor Chiquita Brands International and Fresh Express’ FreshRinse and said DRS would verify any product’s claims by running it in its supplier packinghouses plus ensure it doesn’t affect product quality or shelf life.
“We would bring it in and let them implement it as throughput,” Spinazzola said. “It’s very important for us to reduce our risk and to protect our whole supply chain. We’re trying to drive this throughout our system, not just in our lettuces and wash waters but through our tomatoes and other commodities. We applaud this continuous improvement.”
The USDA researchers wrote about SmartWash in a 2011 Journal of Food Science article.
(Correction: Because of a source’s error, this article originally incorrectly characterized U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Yaguang Luo’s comments that the T128 SmartWash system improved the chlorine’s efficacy in preventing pathogen cross contamination.)