But it’s not simply dumping in a jug of chlorine.
Even produce operations that carefully monitor levels of chlorine, pH and other components find it’s a daunting task to keep disinfectants at appropriate levels.
They may sample every hour, but the results only give you a picture of what happened at that moment in time.
It doesn’t show what happened the other 59 minutes.
Chlorine is very sensitive to organic matter, so when you dump in a load of chopped lettuce, for example, the organic matter in the lettuce juice can greatly reduce the disinfectant’s effectiveness.
Whitaker said the industry has made great strides from just 10 years ago, when he witnessed packinghouse workers using swimming pool chlorine and pH paper to test the water.
Although he said most of the larger packers have since installed much more sophisticated systems, some of the smaller packers no doubt still use the old system.
“And if those guys have a problem, we all have a problem,” he said, referring to how a foodborne illness outbreak can taint the entire industry.
Like all the research CPS funds, the wash water projects are designed to yield applicable results in only a couple of years.
Let’s hope it’s sooner, rather than later.
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