Ozone Gets OK for Food Industry Use Ozone, one of the most effective disinfectants, is used in food processing in other countries. Now, an expert panel says ozone is generally recognized as safe in the U.S. Palo Alto, Calif. -- June 14, 1997 -- A panel of experts from food science, ozone technology and other related fields has declared Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for ozone use in food processing. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) allows independent affirmation of GRAS status of substances by a qualified panel of experts. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) requested an independent contractor to review the history and health aspects of ozone for possible use in processing foods for human consumption and for GRAS status. After an initial meeting with the FDA, an expert panel of six scientists met frequently over the course of a year to interpret and evaluate the history of ozone. Some of the panel's findings include: Ozone has been shown to be a more powerful disinfectant than chlorine, the most commonly used disinfectant. Ozone has been used safely and effectively in water treatment for nine decades and has been approved in the U.S. as GRAS for treatment of bottled water since 1982. Ozone has been applied in the food industry in Europe for decades and, in some cases, for almost a century. Ozone doesn't remain in water so there are no safety concerns about consumption. "Ozone is one of the most powerful disinfectants known. There are no toxic byproducts or potential health hazards when properly used as a microbiocide," said Myron Jones, manager of EPRI's Food Technology Center. Increasing constraints on the use of toxic gases for sterilants or fumigants also makes ozone use more favorable. Ozone is generated for immediate use. So, leaks or spills cannot occur with ozone. "An onsite ozone generator produces ozone via an electrical discharge. Ozone gas is then mixed with water for washing the food and process equipment. The wash water, called flume water, can be filtered and recycled for reuse -- a big environmental benefit," said Ammi Amarnath, former manager of EPRI's Food Technology Center. Jeff Barach,vice president of research and food science policy with the National Food Processors Association commented, "Ozone is very efficient in killing pathogens and spoilage organisms and its use by the food industry will be welcomed as another tool to ensure the production of safe and wholesome foods." Additional potential applications for ozone in the food industry include increasing the yield of certain crops, protection of raw agricultural commodities during storage and transit, and sanitizing packaging materials used for food storage. "While populations increase throughout the world, we are seeing an evolution of new microbiological strains involved in human illnesses. Ozone will help to keep people healthy," said Clark Gellings, EPRI's Customer Systems Group vice president. EPRI, established in 1973 and headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., manages science and technology R&D for the electricity industry. More than 700 utilities are members of the Institute which has an annual budget of some $500 million. Panel of Food Safety Experts Members Dee M. Graham, Ph.D., Fellow - I.F.T. Chair of Panel R and D Enterprises Walnut Creek, CA Michael W. Pariza, Ph.D. Univ. of Wis. Food Research Institute Madison, WI William Howard Glaze, Ph.D. Univ. NC at Chapel Hill Environmental Sciences and Engineering Chapel Hill, NC Gordon W. Newell, Ph.D., Fellow-A.T.S. General and Environmental Toxicology Palo Alto, CA John W. Erdman, Jr., Ph.D., Fellow-I.F.T. Div. of Nutritional Sci., Univ. of Illinois Urbana, IL Joseph F. Borzelleca, Ph.D., Fellow-A.T.S., Fellow-I.F.T. Medical College of Virginia Richmond, VA Ozone is produced by means of an electric discharge through air or pure oxygen that is passing between concentric tubular electrodes. The ozone-enriched gas is then bubbled through water and the residual ozone is destroyed. Bubbling ozone through water provides an environmentally superior and effective alternative to chlorine.