Trials of potentially ‘world-changing’ technology aimed at prolonging the life of fresh produce have proved successful.
Raw fruit and vegetables saw their shelf life increase by up to one day in a study which involved produce being sprayed with an electrically-charged solution that kills bacteria responsible for spoilage.
Testing carried out in cold storage revealed that use of the novel system, developed at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), had no effect on the taste or appearance of the produce.
UWE Bristol’s Professor of Health and Environment, Darren Reynolds, says the technology could be implemented commercially within a year if the food industry is convinced by its benefits. He believes the approach could reduce waste, save millions of pounds and even play a role in helping resolve world hunger.
Tomatoes and cucumbers responded particularly well to treatment with the solution, which is produced by passing salty water through an electro-chemical cell. The activated solution, which is inexpensive to make can be created on demand, kills bacteria commonly found on the surface of fresh produce but is harmless to human skin.
The recent trials – which involved treating produce post-harvest – also saw carrots, peppers, potatoes and tropical fruit doused in the activated liquid.
Professor Reynolds, who pioneered the technology, said: “For some types of produce, we could make a significant impact. We could demonstrate scientifically it would impact on the quality of food in terms of how long it can be stored. It showed we could increase the shelf life by about a day.
“Ultimately, it will make the whole production, distribution and sale process more efficient. That’s where I have to head to – a more sustainable world where we are wasting a lot less. With fresh produce, you have to drive it somewhere, and treat it. The waste is not just the bits you put in the bin – the whole chain around waste is growing.
“We have to stop wasting stuff – we can’t afford to be as wasteful with our resources and everybody knows that. I can’t think of one person who doesn’t see the mountain of waste and think it’s a disgrace.