New technology offers clean alternative to toxic chemicals

Ideal for use in hatcheries, bakeries, dairies and food and beverage processing facilities, a new system that uses electro-chemical activation (ECA) has entered the Australian and New Zealand market. Comprising three components – high-purity salt, water and electricity – this sanitising system offers an alternative to concentrated chemicals and has proven to be just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional chemicals.

What is ECA technology?
Electro-chemical activation (ECA) refers to a process where an electrochemical cell uses electricity, high-purity salt and ordinary tap water to produce a cleaning and sanitising solution. It is also known as electrolysed water, electrolysed oxidising water (EOW), electro-activated water or electro-chemically activated water solution.

ECA produces both a cleaning solution and a sanitiser. The cleanser is an alkaline solution that cleans and degreases, while the sanitiser is a strong oxidiser that provides powerful antimicrobial activity.

ECA versus chemicals
Advanced ECA technology can be just as effective as traditional chemicals but comes without the health hazards and costs associated with concentrated chemicals. Traditional chemicals contain high levels of active ingredients to ensure they are effective – which are harmful to both people and the environment.

Because ECA solutions are produced onsite and are used immediately, they can eliminate the same microorganisms despite having low levels of active chemicals. For example, the Klarion sanitiser is twice as effective as concentrated bleach – 200ppm of Klarion sanitiser does the work of 400ppm of bleach.

With ECA equipment on site, facilities produce cleaners and sanitisers in ready-to-use concentrations on demand. This eliminates the hazards of having to dilute or mix chemicals and also removes the need to store or dispose of chemicals.

Also, workers don’t have to wear or use personal protective equipment (PPE) because there is no harm in the natural solutions produced by ECA. They are non-irritating, fragrance-free and there is no risk of chemical burn. This has the additional benefit of reducing costs for employers.

Other cost savings come in the fact that using the ECA equipment will result in savings of 20 to 30 per cent compared with the use of traditional chemicals. There is no capital expenditure as employers just pay based on the volume produced onsite.

Maintenance is also limited compared with using traditional chemicals – just a daily check of the cleaner and sanitiser pH levels and the salt level in the brine tank is required. The disposal waste stream is less harmful and doesn’t require any special treatment.

Why hasn’t ECA been widely used?
If ECA technology is as good as it sounds, why hasn’t it been widely adopted by the industry? Because until recently, there have been problems with salt residue and corrosion, particularly with commonly used surfaces such as stainless steel. While most salt is converted during the electrolysis process, traces would often remain in the output solutions.

However, one manufacturer has been able to successfully create an ECA technology that works with salt-free output. The Klarion patented technology by Spraying Systems is one that uses ECA but separates the salt source from the liquid flow path in the electrolytic cell via a charge-specific ion-exchange membrane. This results in a pure, salt-free output that can be used on stainless-steel surfaces without the risk of corrosion. The Klarion Cleaning and Sanitising System is also unique in that the electrolytic cell design has a longer cell life and is maintenance-free compared with other ECA technology.

Real examples
One of America’s most established organic bakeries, the Alvarado Street Bakery, adopted the Klarion Cleaning and Sanitising System after learning it could provide a safe, sustainable alternative to chemicals.

As an organic, kosher-certified, zero-waste bakery, there were three factors that determined their trial of the Klarion system. This included the challenge in validating the chemical use, worker safety and sustainability.

The 40-year-old, employee-owned bakery was using chemicals with high chlorine concentrations. Their first issue was in finding test equipment to validate the effectiveness of the chemicals used due to the high chlorine level. Another concern was the risk to worker safety due to the use of toxic chemicals and the waste run-off from these chemicals.

The Klarion system was installed easily into the bakery and was used with the existing sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs).  Its first use was on food contact surfaces that were part of its adenosine triphosphate (ATP) swabbing program. The test results found a reduction in warn and fail numbers, as well as a reduction in cleaning time (it cut cleaning time by 15 minutes). The bakery then tested for pathogens in drains containing Klarion solutions and both drains passed the test.

Importantly, the worker response was positive. Employees found the system easy to learn and use and were impressed by the safety of the solutions. The fact that they did not have to worry so much about chemical exposure was a big positive. They also found that it was easier to remove lecithin and built-up residue and that the testing of the pH and ppm of free available chlorine was much easier with Klarion. The transition to using the Klarion system was seamless and painless – not one SSOP required modification.

Another example is that of a chicken hatchery in the US, which saved more than US$1,300 per month after adopting the Klarion Cleaning and Sanitizing System onsite generation system.

The hatchery had previously using traditional chemicals to clean and sanitise egg trays and other equipment. Concentrated chemicals in 208-litre drums required special storage space and needed to be diluted before use. This required workers wearing PPE and it also affected their morale – they felt uncomfortable about working with, and being regularly exposed to, dangerous and toxic chemicals. Additionally, the chemicals needed to be handled and disposed of carefully to avoid ground and wastewater plant contamination.

The Klarion EGS 6020 system was installed at the hatchery and it achieved the high standards of sanitation that were previously set – but through a much safer process. The worker safety and morale improved. Also, the hatchery found that they saved US$1,300 a month compared with the traditional chemicals, as they eliminated the costs of purchasing the chemicals, their disposal and the PPE that had been required for employees.