Citrocide® Systems continue to stimulate great interest in the postharvest sector, being, as they are, advanced systems for the hygienic washing of fruit and vegetable produce.
Our system guarantees food safety in fruit and vegetable produce as well as extending commercial life by controlling the pathogens that provoke decay, thus mitigating post-harvest losses. In addition, we significantly reduce water consumption in the washing process and energy consumption when cold water is used for washing, as is the case for minimally processed produce and hydrocoolers.
To obtain a more in depth understanding, we interviewed Martín Mottura, one of our PhDs, who instigated the development of this system back in 2010, so that he could shed some light on how this innovative system was created.
How did the idea of creating the Citrocide® System come about? Was there a real need in the market?
MM. When in mid-2010 we began to develop the first Citrocide® System (the Citrocide® PC P System) for hygienic washing and control of decay in peppers, two symbiotic situations came together. Firstly, Citrosol was already working on the diversification strategy for our post-harvest solutions to include other fruit and vegetables above and beyond citrus, although the particular fruit or vegetable with which to begin said diversification had not yet been defined. And secondly, a major pepper exporter in the Murcia area, who already knew Citrosol’s solutions for citrus fruit, contacted us and told us of their urgent need to find a solution to control decay in peppers, which, at the time was one of the main obstacles limiting their export potential. That was how the development of Citrocide® Systems came to be. Citrosol had already perceived the market need, but a real and specific need allowed us to forge ahead with a well-established objective.
Did you come across any obstacles?
MM. Development of our System wasn’t easy; there were many obstacles that we had to overcome before releasing Citrocide® PC P System onto the market. To mention a few, the legal hurdles were major obstacles. Citrosol was the pioneer, paving the way for the safe use of Citrocide® formulations in the hygienic washing of fruit and vegetable produce. Another significant obstacle was the change we needed to impose on the washing process that existed back then; to guide our potential customers toward understanding that these changes would result in a radical improvement in the hygienic washing of their peppers. However, perhaps the most important obstacle to overcome was one which we knew very well from our extensive experience with citrus fruit; that of replicating the excellent results obtained in our laboratory tests to industrial levels. We knew that a large part of our success would lie in the industrial scaling of the solution, and we achieved this thanks to the Citrocide® System, a comprehensive solution that allows the replication of laboratory results at an industrial level, day after day in an efficient and homogeneous way.
What improvements does this system afford to the post-harvest treatment of horticultural produce?
MM. We say in our advertising that the Citrocide® System is “a radical improvement” in the hygienic washing and control of decay in produce such as pepper, tomato or avocado, and, quite frankly it is. Citrocide® Systems allow you to hygienically and safely wash pepper and tomato, among many other fruit and vegetable products, safely recycling the washing water and controlling post-harvest decay. All this based on the application of our product: Citrocide®. The application does not leave any type of residue on the fruit and is also certified as an input for organic farming. Given that in most horticultural produce (with the exception of citrus fruit, stone and pome fruits) the application of post-harvest treatments is very limited, either for legal or technical reasons, it is abundantly clear that the Citrocide® Systems provide a significant improvement in quality, food safety and shelf life of the product, improvements that simply didn’t exist in the post-harvest market previously.
What are the conventional washing systems? Why don’t all horticultural plants use this system?
MM. That is a very broad but also a very interesting question. It is clear that, although post-harvest washing is a common and necessary practice in the vast majority of horticultural produce, the procedures vary dependent upon the product in question and even from one packing house to another. Over all the years working with Citrocide® Systems we have noted that, in general, fruit and vegetable produce was and in many cases still is being washed with drinking water which is then discarded. This operation offers a superficial cleansing of the product and little else. It also suggests a very high level of water consumption and a greatly enhanced risk in terms of food safety, as there is a significant danger of cross contamination with the washing machine acting as the transmitter of microorganisms, even though the water ostensibly is not. What we have also observed is that when disinfectant is applied to the washing water, it is often applied in a haphazard way, if not completely without control, which, in many cases, implies an even greater risk, as it may be believed that the dangers are correctly controlled when in reality they are not. Citrocide® Systems have changed these paradigms, allowing the washing water to be recycled in a hygienic and safe way, whilst converting the washing machine into a true Critical Control Point, reliably controlling the microbiological danger that the washing process entails. Where such radical changes are involved, it is not that easy for everyone to accept such changes, perhaps because they already have ingrained concepts that can be very difficult to change, such as the tomato having fewer post-harvest decay problems when Citrosol has demonstrated that washing with the Citrocide® System can really mitigate postharvest decay in tomatoes, whilst without the Citrocide® System the tomato may decay more or less quickly depending on the batch or lot irrespective of whether it is washed with water or left unwashed. Sometimes we may encounter technical hurdles to overcome: whilst our Citrocide® Systems are easily adapted to almost any type of washing machine, the washing machine itself is not always designed with recycling the wash water in mind which will mean undertaking some kind of modification at the machinery level. Often the client does not easily appreciate that the investment made into fitting and using the Citrocide System is one that is amortized within the short term as a result of the benefits realized from washing with Citrocide® Systems.
Could the range be extended to other fruits / vegetables?
MM. Yes it can and, in fact, we are doing so right now. Citrocide® Systems are in continuous development; there is a burgeoning need in the market for this type of solution and every day more of our clients are seeking customized solutions from us for their fruit and vegetable washing processes. This is excellent as our continuous development is being used to improve our existing Citrocide® Systems which are already available on the market, allowing us to continually improve our solutions. As I said at the beginning of this interview, our first Citrocide® System solution was the Citrocide® PC P System for hygienic washing and decay control in peppers. We then went on to develop the Citrocide® PLUS T System solution for tomatoes, which was followed by other Citrocide® Systems for products such as sweet potato, avocado and mango. In the sector we also have a very successful Citrocide® System for Washing Peeled Garlic Cloves. During 2018-2019 we worked on the development of the Citrocide® FRESH-CUT System for the minimally processed sector, a system that is already on the market and provides a healthier alternative to chlorine washing, commonly used in this area. As you will see, the list of Citrocide® Systems that we have on the market today is already extensive, but the ones that we have yet to develop will make it even more so. We believe that our Citrocide® Systems will be the radical improvement needed for the hygienic washing of a much wider range of fruit and horticultural produce.
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