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The University of Southampton

Research project: Invention to improve food safety: Ultrasonic Salad Cleaning

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Bubbles and Ultrasound to Wash Immersed Fresh Salad leaves. The aim of the project is to develop a ‘greener’ method to clean fresh salad leaves effectively using only pure cold water, bubbles and ultrasound.

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Acoustics Group

Southampton University’s StarStream cleans with low volumes of cold water in a gentle stream using bubbles and ultrasound. StarStream’s current hand held nozzle effectively cleans leaves on a small scale but is not compatible with commercial food washing flumes or tanks.

The bagged salad industry is worth over £450M retail sale value in the UK. However, it faces constant challenges due to the requirement for either a high throughput of water or use of chemical agents to deliver an effective wash process. This project will adapt StarStream to enable the bagged salad industry to effectively clean within a tank or flume. This advanced wash process would improve food safety through enhanced pathogen removal and could increase shelf life by reducing the loading of spoilage microbes on the finished product. Furthermore, the process could also reduce the total amount of water used and the environmental impact of biocides used in many wash systems.

Reducing waste, optimising food safety and reducing water use are the biggest challenges facing the bagged salad industry and this technology has the potential to address all three. For example, a one day increase in shelf life can equate to a significant reduction in wastage throughout the supply chain, which would result in both financial and environmental savings.

The project will also deliver improvements to public health through reducing the risk of the presence of pathogens.

The inclusion of the partner industry, Vitacress, will ensure this fundamental research goes through to real impact, helping society, with the objective of doing so in the lifetime of the project.

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