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Updated: August 27, 2017
Greens can be washed in single or multiple wash tank systems. Recently Vernon Grubinger from the University of Vermont did a study on ways to reduce bacteria in produce wash water. His group found that bacterial loads can be greatly reduced with the addition of a full-dose of sanitizer (SaniDate® 5.0, or similar product) in a single vessel system. This method requires less infrastructure and water. However, two separate rinses, each containing the sanitizer, was more effective for reducing grit. With sanitizer and double rinse bacteria were reduced by 99.6%. Triple washing was the best washing method for farms with appropriate infrastructure (e.g., triple bay sink, multiple stock tubs). Up to 98.0% reductions in bacteria were achieved without sanitizer and with triple rinsing. When triple washing, its best to add a sanitizer to the first wash tank. That's because one contaminated item can spread pathogens through the entire batch and the sanitizer in the next basin would have to work harder to decontaminate the water and the produce. If the greens are particularly gritty or muddy, it's a good idea to rinse the greens with non-recirculated spray water. No sanitizer is needed when using spray water.
There are several commercially available sanitizers used in wash water: two common ones are peroxyacetic acid and chlorine.
Remember, whatever sanitizer you use, federal law requires that it be labeled for use in fruit and vegetable wash water. There are many sources of these and other food safe sanitizers. A few include EcoLab (Mark.Ivkovich@ecolab.com); AFCO (1-800-345-1329); and BioSafe Systems (1-888-273-3088 to find a local distributor).