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Dry decontamination techniques – What are the emerging options?

Wet decontamination techniques have been traditionally used to remove microorganisms from foods and surfaces. Although efficient, these technologies are not suitable for all types of products and surfaces: they may damage some foods or some surfaces, and require environmental control (provision of clean water, reuse and disposal). Their use may not be suited to all applications.

Dry decontamination techniques can offer benefits compared to wet techniques. The main benefit is that dry decontamination techniques do not require water. This reduces water use and potential chemical disposal. These both act to reduce costs. Dry decontamination of food or food contact surfaces helps assure safety and quality, and extend the shelf life of the final food product.

Dry decontamination techniques can be advantageous for the treatment of dry foods, delicate fresh foods, work surfaces and packaging.

This white paper aims to help food businesses assess the potential advantages of switching from wet to dry decontamination technologies. It summarises the technologies and applications of decontamination technologies against the background of recent outbreaks of food borne illnesses. The benefits of dry decontamination technologies are then explained, and some example technologies are described: pulsed light, ultraviolet (UV) light and cold plasma.

Foods and dry decontamination


It had been assumed that dry food and ingredients, by virtue of their low water activity, carried relatively little risk with regards to food borne pathogens. It has become clear, however, that whilst pathogens are unlikely to grow in dry products, they can often survive. Recent outbreaks have raised awareness of the potential of pathogens to grow in some low moisture foods, especially when conditions are right, e.g. addition of the dry food to a wet matrix. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a wide