Several different sterilization options are available in the food processing world, but, first and foremost, organic processors must make
sure that the sterilization process chosen is compliant with organic
regulations to ensure that the organic integrity of the material is
maintained. Methods such as ethylene oxide (ETO) and gamma-irradiation are not allowed in organic due to negative health effects and
“I“It’s important to understand the impact of
sterilization processes on product integrity,
efficacy and stability.”
ity changes in aroma, color and taste.
Ozone can be created synthetically
with an ozone generator and can be
applied in the gas as well as aqueous
phases. Gas-phase ozone applied to
stored agricultural products increases
the storage life resulting in less product loss during storage. Aqueous
phase ozone is being used in many
food processing plants to spray or
wash food products. It is used in garlic processing plants to reduce the microbial load in garlic. About a 1-log
reduction of microbial load can be
achieved with ozone application. Al-
long-term environmental impact linked with these practices. These though a 1-log reduction may be suffi-are discussed below in “Not Allowed in Organic for Good Reason.” cient for certain agricultural
Also, before deciding on a method, it’s important to understand products, it may be insufficient for
the impact of sterilization processes on product integrity, efficacy and other dried herbal products.
stability. Some methods may work well on one product, but then alter Thermal and High Pressure. These
taste, color or other qualities of another type of product. Make sure can be used together to reduce mi-to choose a method that works best for each product on a case-by- crobial contamination and, since
case basis. Commercial viability, governmental regulations and con- there are no chemical residues, it can
sumer acceptance can also influence the method chosen as well. be used for organic products. It’s con-
Below are some of the methods that have been approved for use sidered a natural process and has the
in products labeled “organic” and/or “made with organic.” advantage of being able to process
Ozone. This sterilization method has a long history of use in nu- bulk products in their packaging.
merous industrial applications as a disinfectant for wastewater treat- However, depending on the tempera-
ment, aquaculture, beverage processing such as wine, milk and ture and pressure used, it may impact
bottled juices and for water
purification including drink- Not Allowed in Organic for Good Reason
ing water. The bactericidal, In the spectrum of sterilization methods there are several organic compliant options
fungicidal and general disin- as well as some that are only allowed in conventional processing and/or used in other
fection and oxidizing effects countries.
of ozone treatment are used It is wise to be aware of all types to ensure that when you are sourcing ingredients
worldwide to extend the stor- you can avoid those who might be trying to market a product as organic compliant that
age life of various perishable may have knowingly or unknowingly incorporated a non-compliant sterilization method.
food products. Treatment Of course these ingredients all have to pass a rigorous organic certification in the end,
with ozone does not leave a but it is good to start off by asking about sterilization methods in the beginning so that
residue in the product and you don’t waste time or have any unwanted surprises. Here are a couple of non-compli-
ant methods that exist.
thus can be used in certified
Ethylene Oxide (ETO) has strong antimicrobial properties and has been shown to be
“organic” and “made with or- very effective in reducing microbial load in plant based materials in conventional pro-
ganic” products. cessing, but it is considered a potential carcinogen and reproductive toxin. The amount
Due to its strong oxidizing of residue left in the product by ETO treatment can be measured using appropriate in-
activity, it can destroy bacte- strumentation. Use of ETO to reduce microbial load in agricultural products has been
ria, mold or any other or- banned in several countries around the world. In the United States, its use is limited to
ganic material. However, certain agricultural products.
since agricultural products Gamma-irradiation is also highly effective in reducing microbial loads. However,
are organic materials, the treatment of herb products with gamma-irradiation is not allowed in most parts of the
over-use of ozone could par- world including the United States. There is increasing concern with the processes of
tially oxidize the material such treatment and long-term environmental impacts. Treatment of herbs with gamma
being treated and cause qual- irradiation can be detected using proper instrumentation and methods.