Athena Papa, United Kingdom (European Food Information Council)
Ozone (O3) is a strong antimicrobial agent with several potential applications in the food industry. Its high reactivity, penetrability, and natural decomposition to a harmless product (O2) make ozone a practical disinfectant for ensuring the microbiological safety of food products without leaving chemical residues.
The gas is useful in reducing levels of some mycotoxins and pesticide residues from some agricultural products. The potential benefit of ozone use in the food industry lies within the fact that ozone is 52% stronger than chlorine (another frequently used antimicrobial agent) and has been shown to be effective over a much wider spectrum of microorganisms than chlorine or other disinfectants. Relatively low concentrations of ozone and short contact time are sufficient to inactivate bacteria, moulds, yeasts, parasites and viruses.
Ozone is used in the food industry mostly for decontamination of product surfaces and for water treatment. Ozone has been used to inactivate contaminant microflora on meat, poultry, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, and dry foods during storage and transport. The gas also is useful in detoxification and elimination of mycotoxins and pesticide residues from some agricultural products. The efficacy of ozone is also dependent on other factors as time of exposure, temperature etc. therefore an general statement can’t be made. Excessive use of ozone, however, may cause oxidation of some ingredients. This usually results in discoloration and deterioration of food flavour.