Science Daily published an article about research being conducted at the USDA’s Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory by Research Food Technologist Yaguang Luo, PhD. The story focuses on Luo’s research into whether fresh-cut produce washing operations are effective and how current processes could be improved to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. 

As reported by Science Daily:

bagged lettuceLuo explained: "The main objective of the research was to examine the dynamic interactions among wash operation, water quality, and sanitizer efficacy and product quality. We investigated the effect of produce washing techniques, including simulated water re-use, and the ratio between product weight and wash water volume on the water quality and effectiveness of sanitizers used to reduce microorganisms."

The researchers found that procedures in which water was re-used during the washing process led to rapid accumulation of organic matter in wash water and compromised the efficacy of sanitizers. According to Luo, "It is generally known that water re-use can cause water quality loss. The value of this research is that it reveals the complex effects of the foreign matter that is washed from produce on water quality and product quality, and it provides specific information on how wash operation variables (such as re-use of the same tank of water with increasing amount of cut product being washed) affect the water quality." The study also demonstrated the direct effect of wash water quality on product quality.

Fresh-cut produce growers, processors, and distributors will hopefully benefit from this research, which could help prevent outbreaks like recent E. coli outbreaks traced to lettuce and spinach.