Heterogeneous Photocatalytic Disinfection of Wash Waters from the Fresh-Cut Vegetable Industry

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The effectiveness of photocatalytic disinfection for control of natural and potentially pathogenic microflora in wash waters used for fresh-cut vegetables was evaluated. Wash waters for lettuce, escarole, chicory, carrot, onion, and spinach from a freshcut vegetable processing plant were treated with a titanium dioxide (TiO2) photocatalytic system. The vegetable wash waters were impelled out with a pump at a flow rate of 1,000 liters/h and conducted through a stainless steel circuit to the filtration system to reach the TiO2 photocatalyst fiber, which was illuminated with a 40-W UV-C lamp. The microbial and physicochemical qualities of the wash water were analyzed. Heterogeneous photocatalysis was an effective disinfection method, reducing counts of bacteria, molds, and yeasts. Most of the treated wash waters had total bacteria reductions of 4.1 ± 1.3 to 4.8 ± 0.4 log CFU/ml after 10 min of treatment when compared with untreated water. Higher decontamination efficacy was observed in carrot wash water (6.2 ± 0.1-log reductions), where turbidity and organic matter were lower than those in the wash waters for other vegetables. The tested heterogeneous photocatalytic system also was effective for reducing water turbidity, although chemical oxygen demand was unaffected after the treatments. The efficacy of the photocatalytic system for reducing microbial load depended on the physicochemical characteristics of the wash water, which depended on the vegetable being washed. The conclusions derived from this study illustrate that implementation of a heterogeneous photocatalytic system in the fresh-cut vegetable washing processes could allow the reuse of wash water.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Research Group on Quality, Safety and Bioactivity of Plant Foods, Food Science and Technology Department, CEBAS-CSIC, P.O. Box 164, E-30100 Espinardo, Murcia, Spain

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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