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Food Safety Breakthrough

Chiquita Brands International and Fresh Express introduced a new sanitizing technology that will revolutionize the value added industry. The groundbreaking FreshRinse technology dramatically reduces microorganisms and improves quality, according to the company.

"Based on our extensive research, we view FreshRinse as the biggest invention since the start of pre-packaged salads," said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer of Chiquita. "FreshRinse sets a new standard in food safety for the produce industry. We continue to deliver breakthrough innovations and we plan to make this new technology available to the industry. We want consumers and customers to know they have an important new option when making purchase decisions.

FreshRinse doesn't use chlorine, and when compared to the standard chlorine wash used today, has much higher efficacy. Aguirre called it a leap forward, not a step forward in food safety.

"Chlorine is the abacus. FreshRinse is an iPad," he said, holding up an iPad at the press conference announcing the product on Oct. 15.

In testing by a third party laboratory, the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, FreshRinse was found to have a 750 times greater reduction of suspended pathogen cells compared to chlorine. For E. coli O157:H7, FreshRinse had a greater than 7.2 log reduction, one million times the effectiveness of chlorine.

"That's the equivalent of chlorine walking a mile, and FreshRinse walking to the moon and back two times," said Mike Burness, vice president of global quality and food safety for Chiquita Brands International.

For attached pathogen cells, FreshRinse resulted in a 4.2 log reduction of E. coli O157:H7, 3.4 log reduction of salmonella and 3.4 log reduction of listeria monocytogenes (or 447, 78 and 14 times more effective than chlorine). All testing was done in real-world conditions, using cold water with organic load.

FreshRinse was developed by Kai-Lai Grace Ho, principle scientist for Fresh Express. She called the technology a significant advancement over chlorine, and it is years of research coming to fruition.

"For me and all the members of our team, we are very pleased that this day has come," she said.

Not only does FreshRinse improve the safety of processed produce, it improves the quality. FreshRinse reduces microorganisms responsible for decay, and the product leaves the natural aroma of the product and better color. Consumers have favored the FreshRinse-treated produce compared to chlorine treated produce overwhelmingly in 15,000 sensory consumer tests.

The product is a combination of materials that are FDA approved and Generally Recognized as Safe, and it's environmentally friendly, breaking down to oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. It can also be used on both conventional and organic produce items, and doesn't require a line cleaning when running organics after conventional produce.

By the end of 2010, a majority of Fresh Express salads will be processed using FreshRinse technology, and in 2011 the company will launch an advertising campaign to inform consumers of the benefits. The food safety, quality and taste benefits will help drive consumption, said Brian Kocher, president of Chiquita North America.

Chiquita and Fresh Express doesn't want to keep the technology in-house. Like much of the research the company has invested in over the years, FreshRinse is available to the industry. The company will license the technology, and while the terms have not yet been released, Aguirre said he didn't expect to add more than a few pennies to the price of a final product.

-By Scott Christie

Originally posted Friday, Oct. 15, 2010

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