May 01, 2009
Unfortunately, admits Joe Stapley, drinking the stuff will not give you the super-strength to leap tall buildings in a single bound or fly faster than a speeding bullet. But Empowered Water -- electrolyzed water is the formal name -- a new kind of food-safety chemical produced by EAU Technologies, can reduce pathogens on chicken carcasses without compromising quality. Fieldale Farms is now using the USDA-approved solution throughout primary processing in one of the company’s poultry processing plants. It’s the first installation for EAU in the meat and poultry industry.
Stapley, EAU’s senior vice president for business development and investor relations, told MEATPOULTRY.com that the product is made by "taking a clean water source, adding some culinary-grade salt, then subjecting it to an electrolysis generator," which separates the positive and negative ions in the water and separates the salt to create two kinds of water, one acidic and one alkaline. The alkaline water acts as a cleaning agent and the acidic water is a disinfectant. Fieldale uses Empowered Water, Stapley said, "as their primary antimicrobial under their HACCP plan." In the laboratory under controlled circumstances, Empowered Water results in a six-to-seven-log reduction in pathogen cell numbers, though Stapley says that "in the real world of processing plants the log reductions will be lower."
He said Empowered Water could replace "essentially all the caustic cleaning chemicals in a processing plant," though he added that it cannot be sprayed on galvanized metal due to corrosion problems. But another benefit is that as soon as Empowered Water comes into contact with organic material, such as a poultry carcass, it reverts back to simple H2O. "That means you have no downstream pollutants. Your plant’s discharge is basically water."
The effects of electrolyzed water were first recognized in the mid-19th century by British physicist and chemist Michael Faraday. In Asia, Stapley said, such water is used routinely by dentists to disinfect human mouths and in other small-volume applications. The problem for larger food uses, he added, has been harnessing the electrolyzed water’s benefits in commercial levels. The EAU system is the first to successfully overcome this obstacle, according to Stapley. The system is installed between a plant’s water source and the spray applicators or nozzles. "The solutions are all created on-site," he said.
He noted that even though EAU’s Empowered Water has USDA approval as an antimicrobial, selling the product to skeptical processors who have heard dozens of pitches of miracle products over the years was difficult. "Frankly, there are a lot of claims about electrolyzed water out there, and some of them give you that ‘it’s too good to be true’ feeling. And from a processor’s point of view, they’re asking why they should invest – I mean, they don’t get rewarded for an extra-clean chicken," he commented. "But we think we’ve finally turned the corner on breaking the noise barrier. It took a progressive processor to see the potential, and that’s exactly what Fieldale is. They’ve been great to work with."