UVC Applications for Foodborne Pathogens

UVC Applications for Foodborne Pathogens

Ultraviolet Light — UVC Applications
for Foodborne Pathogens on Fresh Produce
(e.g. Fresh Fruits)

John Palmer
Chief Executive Officer, UVSheltron
Rear Admiral (ret), U.S. Navy

Food Safety Applications:  The health and safety applications for ultraviolet light are increasing every day.  One area that has shown significant promise is in the combating of foodborne illnesses with UVC.  Studies are showing that UVC rapidly kills pathogens on fresh fruits and vegetables without damaging the produce.

University study:  There have been many independent tests to confirm the efficacy of UVC in food service.  In particular, New Food Magazine highlighted a study by Washington State University (WSU), in partnership with Louisiana State University (LSU) that was published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology in 2015.  The article states that “UVC light, which cannot penetrate opaque, solid objects, can be effective in sanitising surfaces. The technology, which has been around for several years, has been used to effectively sanitize food contact surfaces as well as drinking water and contaminated air.”  Specifically, the WSU/LSU team exposed various fruits (e.g. apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and cantaloupe) to UVC to ascertain how effective the pathogen-killing light was against a mix of strains of E. coli and listeria. They found that the light can inactivate up to 99.9% of pathogens on apples and pears, and E. coli proved to be more rapidly inactivated than listeria.  Fruits with rougher surfaces had a reduced but still highly effective rate of inactivation of 90 percent.  The UVC findings represent good news for organic fruit processors who pursue alternatives to chemicals to help prevent foodborne illness.

UVC Devices:  Food service UVC systems are also easily engineered.  The New Food Magazine article outlined that “adding UVC lamps to a fruit packing line does not require major modification. UVC lamps enclosed behind protective barriers can be easily set up in a tunnel that exposes fruit to the light as it passes on a conveyor belt.”

Protected by UVSheltron:  UVSheltron has three basic types of products to help growers and grocers protect their produce, coworkers, and customers—Towers, Cabinets, and Handhelds.

  • Towers for space disinfection: We make 6-foot and a 3-foot towers called “Illuminant-6” and “Illuminant-3” respectively.  These products are popular in grocery stores, office complexes, nursing homes, industrial facilities, and medical care facilities. 
    • Illuminant 6: Large cafeterias, medium sized auditoriums, and large training areas up to 9,000 square feet
    • Illuminant 3: Moderately sized offices, common areas, restrooms, and medium sized cafeterias up to 4,500 square feet.
  • Cabinets for object disinfection:  We make three cabinets or UVC boxes—"Chamber,” “Elide,” and “Ark.”
    • Chamber: Chamber is the size of a large wardrobe or refrigerator.  It is suitable not only for produce but for larger items such as large tools, first responder gear, flight suits, football equipment, lab coats, sports gear, etc. 
    • Elide: Elide is the size of a microwave, and it is popular in waiting rooms and nursing stations to disinfect PDAs, masks, keys, phones, clipboards, small-sized sports equipment, etc. 
    • Ark (custom designed/manufactured): Ark is a UVC enclosure designed to disinfect hospital wheelchairs, push carts, IV carts, etc. in only a matter of minutes. Customization would be based in space availability and power supply.
  • Handhelds for targeted disinfection:  We have handheld devices called “Irrupt” and it looks like a 2-foot shop-light. 
    • Irrupt:  Irrupt It permits targeted disinfection and is very popular with fitness centers, bars, restaurants, and industrial maintenance lines. 

Optimal Inactivation Power:  UVSheltron’s disinfection devices utilize some of the most powerful UVC lamps on the market that emit short wavelength UVC at 254 nanometers. 

How UVC works:  The devices work through Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI).  UVGI uses the short-wavelength UV-C light to kill or inactivate microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids--disrupting the RNA/DNA and leaving them unable to perform vital cellular functions.  Our devices kill 99.99 percent of hundreds of pathogens (including viruses, bacteria and hard to kill mold & spores) without toxic chemicals. 

Sources and links:

  • Washington State University & Louisiana State University Study (Abstract): Achyut Adhikaria Roopesh M. Syamaladevib Karen Killingerc Shyam S. Sablanib
    • aSchool of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Louisiana State University AgCenter, 263 Knapp Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-6202, United States
    • bBiological Systems Engineering Department, Washington State University, P.O. Box 646120, Pullman WA 99164-6120, United States
    • cSchool of Food Science, Washington State University, P.O. Box 646376, Pullman, WA 99164-6376, United States