How Boric Acid Washes Affect Fresh-Cut Spinach Safety and Quality

Greg Howard
7th June, 2024

How Boric Acid Washes Affect Fresh-Cut Spinach Safety and Quality

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Ankara University found that a 1% boric acid solution effectively reduces harmful bacteria on fresh-cut spinach
  • The boric acid wash enhanced antioxidant activity and increased total phenolic content in the spinach
  • The treatment maintained the spinach's physical quality, including moisture content, tissue integrity, and minimal color changes
Insufficient disinfection of fresh-cut spinach poses significant health risks, along with potential issues like odor, color changes, and softening during short-term storage. To address these challenges, researchers at Ankara University explored boric acid solutions as an alternative to chlorine washes, which are known to produce toxic compounds[1]. Among various concentrations, a 1% boric acid solution was found to be the most effective for microbial inactivation, significantly reducing total mesophilic aerobic bacteria, total yeast and mold, and Enterobacteriaceae counts by 1.64, 1.38, and 1.77 logs, respectively. This study is particularly relevant in the context of previous findings that highlight the importance of effective disinfection methods in the fresh-cut produce industry. For instance, earlier research has shown that washing with sanitizers is crucial for maintaining the microbial quality of wash water and preventing cross-contamination between clean and contaminated produce[2]. The use of boric acid as a disinfectant could thus offer a safer and potentially more effective alternative to traditional chlorine-based methods. In addition to microbial inactivation, the study also assessed various quality parameters of spinach leaves washed with the 1% boric acid solution. The results were promising: antioxidant activity was enhanced (55.26 mg kg-1 Trolox equivalent), total phenolic content increased (1214.06 mg kg-1 gallic acid equivalent), and chlorophyll a (839.16 mg kg-1), chlorophyll b (539.61 mg kg-1), and ascorbic acid content (264.72 mg kg-1) were well retained. These findings correlate with earlier studies that indicate fresh-cut spinach maintains its nutritional content and visual appeal better than intact spinach during storage[3]. Mechanical properties such as puncture strength (1.81 N) and puncture distance (52.78 mm) also showed favorable outcomes, alongside optimal moisture content at 89.81%. Scanning electron microscopy images demonstrated maintained tissue integrity, while Hunter Lab readings indicated minimal color changes post-washing. These results support the idea that boric acid washing can maintain the physical quality of fresh-cut spinach, which is crucial for consumer acceptance. Notably, the study found that residual boric acid content was lowest in spinach leaves (1252.49 mg kg-1) and highest in the wash water (53.88 mg kg-1) after treatment. This suggests that the boric acid does not excessively linger on the spinach leaves, reducing potential health risks associated with residue consumption. Sensory evaluations and various physicochemical analyses further supported the efficacy of boric acid washing, indicating that it does not negatively impact the sensory qualities of spinach. The findings from Ankara University suggest that washing spinach leaves with a 1% boric acid solution for 1 minute yields favorable results across multiple quality parameters. This aligns with previous research that emphasizes the importance of effective disinfection methods to ensure food safety and quality in the fresh-cut produce industry[2][4]. In conclusion, the study highlights the potential of boric acid as a safe and effective alternative disinfectant for fresh-cut spinach. Future research should focus on exploring the long-term effects and optimizing washing protocols for broader applications, which could further enhance food safety and quality in the fresh-cut produce industry.



Main Study

1) Effects of washing with boric acid solutions on residual boric acid content, microbiological load, and quality of fresh-cut spinach.

Published 15th June, 2024 (future Journal edition)

Related Studies

2) Fresh-cut product sanitation and wash water disinfection: problems and solutions.

3) Bioactive compounds during storage of fresh-cut spinach: the role of endogenous ascorbic acid in the improvement of product quality.

4) Public Health Relevance of Cross-Contamination in the Fresh-Cut Vegetable Industry.

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