Packing and shipping companies use many unique methods to keep produce fresh before it reaches the grocery store. A common method is “controlled atmosphere storage” which controls conditions in storage rooms to halt the ripening process for produce. This process is so effective that it might surprise you. The FDA says “an entire harvest under controlled-atmosphere conditions and it’ll last up to 10 months, depending on variety.”
Take an apple for example. Apples typically ripen in August and September, but with the use of controlled atmosphere storage, they can be kept for months. This allows for the year-round market availability we are all used to. The produce is then stored until it is ready to be shipped to supermarkets. Different types of produce have different typical storage times. Once the produce leaves the controlled environment, the ripening process begins again.
Japan has acted as a global leader in ozone food preservation practices. There are more than 500 ozone-based gas or water treatment installations in the food industry throughout Japan and more than 100,000 food treatment plants in Japan.
Ozone in Grocery Stores
Additionally, it is important for supermarkets to have procedures in place that will keep produce fresh while on the shelves. Ozone can be used in gaseous or aqueous form to treat produce in grocery stores, depending on which is more beneficial for the product.
Ozone was declared Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA in 1997. GRAS means, “any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excepted from the definition of a food additive.”
Past studies have proven that ozone can be used to extend the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, and many different types of meat. When ozone is used on produce, the flavor is fresh and vibrant and the preservation period is greatly extended. It also works to neutralize residual pesticides and fertilizers, and to kill surface bacteria and virus.
Meat products can also benefit from similar treatments. Meat and poultry products that are soaked or rinsed in ozonated water can expect to kill salmonella, E. coli and other harmful microbes, as well as to neutralize residual hormones. Additionally, the preservation time is increased 2 to 5 times. For fish products, ozonated water can be used to kill microbes and remove fishy odor.
Ozone treatments can increase the produce longevity and help the the product appear more appealing to consumers, whether it's through coloring or limiting unpleasant smells.
- Keeping Apples Crunchy and Flavorful After Storage: https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2007/oct/apples
- Our fruits and veggies aren't as fresh as you might think: http://mashable.com/2017/04/25/fruits-veggies-fresh-video/#LNGm2VOojaqV
- Just how old are the 'fresh' fruit & vegetables we eat?: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2003/jul/13/foodanddrink.features18
- That apple you just bought might be a year old – but does it matter?: https://www.today.com/food/apple-you-just-bought-might-be-year-old-does-it-2D80207170
- If you refrigerate your tomatoes, you're doing it wrong: http://mashable.com/2016/10/17/refrigerated-tomato-flavor-study/#0.aEvd8t3OqG
- Ozone and its current and future application in the food industry: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12402681
- Ozone Contribution in Food Industry in Japan:
- Why Ozone: http://www.toshiba.co.jp/sis/en/environment/municipal/02_01.htm
- Agriculture Research Issues: https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2007/oct