Published on 04/14/09

Antimicrobial wash is better than chlorine

By Terry Hastings

A new technology that kills pathogens on food at home and in restaurants, grocery stores, beverage-manufacturing and food-processing facilities has been licensed to the maker of FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash™. The licensing agreement between the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc. and HealthPro Brands, Inc., FIT’s parent company, vastly extends the range of applications for the company’s current anti-microbial food wash.

The exclusive license, which includes sublicensing rights, is effective in select countries around the world, including the U.S.

Kills more pathogens

The new technology, invented by scientists from the UGA Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Ga., can kill significant numbers of E. coli and salmonella in less than one minute, but it is recommended that the wash be applied from one to five minutes. The technology can be used as a food wash for the produce, poultry, meat and egg processing industries.

“The reformulated FIT food wash will kill more harmful microbes faster,” said Mike Doyle, the center’s director who, along with microbiologist Tong Zhao, invented the technology. “The new antimicrobial food wash is orders of magnitude more powerful and twice faster.”

The wash has no effects on smell, taste, appearance or shelf-life of the treated food, said Doyle, a professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and an internationally recognized authority on food safety.

Like the original FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash now used at home by consumers and by food service industry, the new antimicrobial wash uses a combination of two inexpensive components that are safe for humans and the environment.

The new FIT product also will be available as a spray and immersion solution for foods ranging from fragile leafy produce, fruits and vegetables to meats and poultry, or food preparation equipment and food transportation vehicles.

“The new technology takes our current FIT product to a whole new level of sanitization,” said Todd Wichmann, president and CEO of HealthPro Brands. “We look forward to getting our improved product into the hands of industry.”

Replaces chlorine

FIT will replace chlorine as the new standard for reducing harmful bacteria levels in industrial settings, said Wichmann. Chlorine is toxic at high concentrations and may produce off-flavors and undesirable appearance in certain food products. It can damage equipment, too, and can only be used, stored and transported with specialized equipment and trained personnel. It’s also subject to environmental regulations and can damage certain seeds and delicate sprouts.

“We can’t rely on chlorine any longer,” Doyle said. “In addition to being safer and more acceptable in terms of appearance and smell, our studies have shown this new technology to be considerably more effective than chlorine.”

The product outperforms other food sanitization technologies, such as ozone, as well. Ozone, a short-lived gas, must be produced using specialized equipment immediately upon use, making its use inaccessible to the majority of companies in the food industry.

Not just for produce and poultry

Gennaro Gama, a senior technology manager with UGARF, said the new product also could be used as an antimicrobial additive in food products such as ground meats, butters and pastes.

“We are very pleased to have established a partnership with HealthPro,” Gama said. “We believe that our respective technologies interact synergistically and will lead to the short-term development of very versatile products that can be used in virtually all segments of the food industry and with considerable potential to mitigate public health issues associated with food poisoning.”

HealthPro has agreed with UGARF’s request to retain the ability to license the technology for humanitarian purposes in Sub-Saharan Africa, he said. “Contamination of the food chain is ubiquitous (there) and easy counter-measures are frequently unavailable to those populations,” Gama said.

Available in stores and online

FIT was originally developed by Procter & Gamble and sold to HealthPro Brands, Inc. in 2006. It is the only produce wash certified Kosher and recommended by the American Vegetarian Association. FIT is available in select grocery stores or can be purchased online at

Terry Hastings is the director of communications for the UGA Office of the Vice President for Research.