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Spain: Ultraviolet radiation to disinfect vegetables

Investigators at the Technology Center for Agriculture Auxiliary Industry (Centro Tecnológico para la Industria Auxiliar de la Agricultura - Tecnova) in Almeria managed to reduce by 20 to 25% the rot in horticultural products like courgette and eggplant by applying ultraviolet radiation.

According to information in a note from the Descubre Foundation, it's said that this technique means, in some cases, an alternative to the chlorinating cleaners (bleach) that are used as disinfectants. Moreover, radiation speeds up vegetables ability to produce antioxidants, beneficial to consumers health.

To be more exact, experts used ultraviolet lights C type (UV-C) to disinfect the fresh fruits and vegetables surface and products with a minimal processing while fresh (IV range), meaning, those that are cut, pealed, washed and packed, ready for consumption.

Essays demonstrated the results of the energetic power of the UV-C radiation, acting against all kind of micro-organisms (bacteria, virus, fungus), damaging their DNA and preventing reproduction. As for courgette and eggplant/aubergine, one of the main problems is deterioration due to the "Botrytis" fungus or the "Erwini" bacteria. The use of ultraviolet radiation diminished the initial microflora, managing reductions of rot between 20 to 25%.

"In Spain, post-harvest losses are around 20%. For example, if in a eggplant shipment an average of 10% is not usable because of damage, by applying this technology we would be able to reduce considerably the rejected products", explained the investigator for the Post-harvest Technology and Packaging at Tecnova, Joaquín Pozo.

Another of the radiation's effects is the capacity to induce antioxidant compounds production. The energy from ultraviolet radiation is received by the product as an aggressor, so it starts a defensive mechanism. This is about activating metabolic mechanisms destined to generate some antioxidant compounds.

Although, to avoid the light causing damage to the fruit, it is necessary to measure the applied dose with precision. "If the dose is not enough, micro organisms will not be affected, but if it's too much, the vegetable will suffer irreversible damage."

Source: Europapress

Publication date: 3/21/2012


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