Vicky Boyd, staff writer
Vicky Boyd, staff writer

I try to keep a neat and tidy refrigerator and consume food before it starts to grow blue-green hair.

Occasionally, something escapes my oversight and I find an unidentifiable “science project” in the back reaches of the fridge.

But I really haven’t been afraid of what microbial life might be lurking since my brother stored elk droppings he’d collected in the mountains for his mycology class.

If you believe a recent advertisement in Southwest Airlines’ Spirit Magazine, mold and bacteria by the billions are common in refrigerators and actually cause “sick refrigerator syndrome” — and that’s even without elk droppings.

“Stop eating 250,000 bacteria in your salad,” the ad warned.

Have no fear, say the Las Vegas-based marketers of BerryBreeze, a home-sized battery powered ozone generator.

For $49.95, you can buy a machine that will “sanitize your refrigerator and the food you keep in it,” according to the company’s media kit.

“It kills bacteria, mold, fungus and yeasts. BerryBreeze also eliminates ethylene gas, which is produced by many fruits and vegetables and triggers ripening and decay.”

Using ozone commercially to slow postharvest decay and rot in various produce items is not a new practice, said Trevor Suslow, a University of California-Davis extension research specialist in produce food safety.

Packinghouses, for example, frequently hold bell peppers overnight in cold rooms to undergo ozone treatments, he said.

Until I asked Suslow about the BerryBreeze, he said he’d never heard of the unit and didn’t know of another colleague who had tested it.

Without seeing research data or conducting ozone output measurements, he said he couldn’t comment on the machine.

“The principle behind ozone is legit,” Suslow said of the machine. “Whether they can deliver that from a home consumer battery operated unit, I just don’t know.”

And as he pointed out, some produce items, such as leafy greens, are actually sensitive to ozone.

Repeated attempts to contact officials at BerryBreeze were unsuccessful.

Despite reading much of the BerryBreeze material, I’m still not afraid of what’s lurking in my refrigerator.

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