Leafy vegetables may get contaminated with pathogens through the use of irrigation water during open field cultivation. The main control option to prevent this contamination is the use of disinfection technologies that will reduce the pathogenic load of the irrigation water. Several technologies, either chemical or physical, are available for disinfection, which were gathered from the literature and European Union (EU) projects. The purpose of this paper is to prioritise these technologies.
A feasibility study was performed to identify the most promising disinfection technology considering 12 different criteria. A two-tier approach was used in which the technologies were first evaluated based on three criteria: legal status, effectiveness and technology readiness level (TRL). Only the technologies that reached pre-set thresholds for these three criteria were then evaluated in the second tier.
The evaluation showed that the most promising technologies after the tier-2 evaluation were ultrasound, microfiltration, ultraviolet and ozone. The study showed that the followed approach enabled prioritising disinfection technologies allowing for selecting the most promising technologies that can be tested further on a possible application during primary production to prevent possible food safety issues in leafy vegetables.
The overview is not an exhaustive list of disinfection technologies available rather only those technologies that seemed promising for application in horticulture were addressed. Some technologies may, thus, have been missed. Nevertheless, a total of 12 single and seven combined technologies were evaluated.
This is the first study that uses a structured approach to prioritise a broad range of possible water disinfection technologies for use at primary production.
The experts who participated in this research are kindly thanked for their valuable contribution. The authors gratefully acknowledge Jolanda Medevoort (Wageningen Food and Biobased Research, part of Wageningen University and Research) for contributing to the evaluation of the technology readiness levels. The project partners PB International, Nijhuis Industries, Hessing BV, Heemskerk BV, Palintest Ltd, Sormac BV, Mechanisatiecentrum Flakkee, SmartWashSolutions and Fedecom are kindly thanked for their contribution to this research. Funding: This work was supported by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture and Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and was part of the project Safe and Save Water within Topsector Tuinbouw and Uitgangsmaterialen (TU-17003 Safe and save water in de fresh produce supply chain).
van Asselt, E.D., Banach, J.L., Klüche, M. and Appelman, W.A.J. (2021), "Prioritising water disinfection technologies to improve food safety of leafy vegetables", British Food Journal, Vol. 123 No. 5, pp. 1899-1912. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-03-2020-0197
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