What Restaurants Need to Know About HOCI

Food Safety Specialist Francine L. Shaw sat down with Morten Larsen, CEO & Founder of EcoloxTech to discuss the use of Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) in restaurants and food service.

Why is it so important for restaurants and other food businesses to be aware of – and use – HOCI as a disinfectant and sanitizer?

Well, as you know, restaurants and other food brands must prioritize food safety every day, with every shift. Even during the busiest times, staff members must work diligently to keep foods – and guests – safer. Each year, 48 million people get sick and 3,000 die from foodborne illness in the United States, yet these food safety breaches are 100-percent preventable.

In late 2023, a foodborne illness outbreak – caused by salmonella-tainted cantaloupe – killed at least eight people and sickened hundreds more across 39 states plus Canada, leading to a massive recall and huge customer safety concerns.

Food businesses across the supply chain must work proactively to prevent food safety breaches. As we’ve seen, food safety incidents can seriously harm customers – and can cause tremendous financial, legal, and reputational damage to restaurants and other food businesses.

HOCI is becoming more widely known (and used) in a variety of industries – including food service, hospitality, healthcare, travel and tourism, and more – because of its effectiveness in killing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It’s particularly effective against pathogens like Norovirus, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, COVID and Influenza. It’s also important to note that HOCI is compliant with CDC, FDA, and EPA regulations.

Restaurants – and other food brands – must prioritize food safety. HOCI allows restaurants to disinfect effectively, sustainably, and responsibly, elevating their food safety efforts and minimizing foodborne illness outbreaks and risks. Restaurants would be wise to rely on HOCI to keep their foods, guests, and businesses safer.

If the salmonella-tainted cantaloupe had gone through a HOCI produce washbefore being processed, could it have potentially eliminated the pathogens and prevented the ensuing infections, recall, and other damaging, expensive fall out that we saw late last year?

It could definitely reduce the risk significantly, if not completely eliminate the risk. Pre-washing produce with HOCl gets rid of dirt, feces, and other contaminants that could sicken or kill consumers. HOCl is non-toxic and 80-100x more potent than bleach, making it a preferred sanitizer choice for many restaurants, grocery stores, processing facilities, and other food businesses. Due to its safety and effectiveness, HOCI is expected to gain a more significant following in the coming year.

How is HOCI generated?

HOCI is generated through electrolysis, where salt and water are combined into a brine, that brine is then pumped through an electrolysis cell resulting in a solution that contains hypochlorous acid, a powerful sanitizing agent. 

Hypochlorous acid is naturally formed in various environments, including the human body, and plays a crucial role in disinfection and protection against pathogens. Increasingly, companies are harnessingits potential for various applications, including disinfection and sanitation.

What are the benefits of HOCI?

HOCI offers many significant benefits. 

First, it’s effective against pathogens. HOCl is highly effective at killing harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It’s particularly effective against E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria – common causes of foodborne illness outbreaks. Additionally, “traditional” sanitizers can’t fully kill certain pathogens, including MRSA, but HOCI is extremely effective against a wide range of pathogens, including MRSA, COVID, Influenza, and Norovirus. 

It’s also safe and eco-friendly. HOCl is 80-100x more potent than bleach, yet it’s also non-toxic, sustainable, and safe for use on (and around) foods. Unlike other sanitizers that may leave harmful residues, HOCl breaks down into simple saltwater after use, posing no risk to consumers or the environment. Since HOCl doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals found in many traditional sanitizers, it’s safer for workers handling it. Unlike other sanitizers, it reduces the chemical contamination risks for food.

This is a versatile product that can be used in various applications in restaurants and other food businesses, including direct food contact as well as surface and equipment disinfection. HOCI can be used as a dip wash, spray, and fog.  And it’s rinse-free. Since HOCl doesn’t need to be rinsed off surfaces or food products, it saves time, effort, and water, offering a significant advantage in restaurant and food processing environments,where speed and efficiency are crucial.

HOCI is odorless and tasteless, which is essential for maintaining food quality and characteristics.

And, importantly, it’s compliant with CDC, FDA, and EPA regulations. Check with these food safety authorities for guidelines on using HOCl as a sanitizer on food products to comply with food safety standards.

Why should food businesses use HOCI  for disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces, equipment, and food?

When compared to other sanitizers and disinfectants, HOCI is often considered the preferred choice for restaurants. As compared to ozone for food disinfection, HOCI:

  • Has a longer shelf life.
  • Can be applied in various ways – as a liquid, spray, or fog.
  • Doesn’t require specialized equipment like ozone does.
  • Is generally safer and easier to handle – and there’s no specialized equipment required – though reputable manufacturers and proper training are essential
  •  Is non-toxic, eliminating the risks for respiratory issues, while ozone can be hazardous to human health if inhaled in significant quantities.
  • Breaks down into harmless substances (mainly water and salt), whereas ozone can produce harmful by-products in certain conditions.
  • Doesn’t affect the taste and odor of treated products, which is crucial in food processing applications, whereas ozone can sometimes leave a distinct smell or taste.