Ozone gas (O3) is a naturally occurring tri-atomic form of oxygen (O2) that is formed as sunlight passes through the atmosphere. It can be generated artificially by passing high voltage electricity through oxygen rich air (corona discharge), causing oxygen to break apart and recombine in the tri-atomic form. Because oxygen naturally seeks its normal state, ozone is an unstable, highly reactive form of the gas.

As an oxidizer, it is 51 times more powerful as chlorine, the oxidizer most commonly used by most food processors, and 3,100 times faster at killing bacteria and other microbes. Ozone is effective as a disinfectant at relatively low concentrations and does not leave toxic byproducts similar to those related to chlorination. Ozone reacts with unsaturated bonds and causes them to split, especially under acidic conditions. If exposed to a long list of pollutants, bacteria, viruses, spores, fungi, mold, mildew, etc., ozone will react with them and destroy them. If left unreacted, ozone will degrade back to O2 in about 20 minutes.

What is ozone?

How can we use this?

For more than a century, ozone has been used in Europe for purifying drinking water and is currently used in the United States for purifying bottled water and decontaminating cooling towers. The city of Los Angeles currently uses ozone to purify its water supply. However, on June 23, 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status to ozone for use in food contact applications. While there was already interest among food processors in the use of ozone for killing microorganisms and sanitizing equipment, this FDA approval opened the floodgates for food processors to begin putting this exciting technology to use in their plants. Today, meat, poultry and seafood plants are beginning to use ozonation as a food safety measure and fruit and vegetable packers as well as processors of fresh-cut or minimally processed fresh fruits and vegetables are looking at the new technology, too. The Department of Agriculture published an article saying that no secondary biocide is necessary when using ozone as it kills bacteria, viruses, spores, fungi, mold, mildew, etc., without the need for other products.

© Ozone Systems, Inc. 2010

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