Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Sustainable cleaning and disinfection in fresh-cut food industries (Food processing)

Project acronym: SUSCLEAN

Title of project: Sustainable cleaning and disinfection in fresh-cut food industries

Research area: Food Processing

Contract No: 287514

EU contribution: €2 999 992

Start date: January 2012

Duration: 36 months

Status: on-going

The market for ready-to-use, minimally-processed vegetables (MPV), especially fresh-cut lettuce, has grown rapidly over recent decades as a result of changes in consumer attitudes originating from their use in prepared salads. In parallel, disease outbreaks related to MPV have also increased; and for some recent foodborne outbreaks, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables are suspected of providing possible vehicles for foodborne pathogens. Hence, chlorine has been widely used to decontaminate fruits and vegetables in the fresh-cut industry in order to reduce the load of spoilage organisms and pathogens.

However, the link between chlorine and carcinogenic chlorinated compounds in water has called into question the use of chlorine in food processing. Consequently there is a real need to find alternative, efficient decontamination treatments that, at the same time, preserve MPV freshness, quality and safety along with the shelf life of the product.

The SUSCLEAN project is contributing to the development and implementation of a new generation of environment-friendly equipment, sanitation and food product decontamination technologies for ensuring food safety. For the project, "sanitation' includes cleaning methods that remove all organic matter down to the level of surface biofilms, and disinfection that reduces the viable microbial population on food processing surfaces, with special attention paid to pathogens. The project is focusing on MPV, which are vegetables physically altered from their original form by slicing and cutting, but remaining in a fresh state.

The partners' investigations have the following objectives:

  • To design new decontamination approaches for MPV and sanitation strategies for their processing equipment along the supply chain.
  • To propose guidance and recommendations to renew the best available processing techniques (BAT).
  • To evaluate the impacts of the proposed sanitation and decontamination strategies in line with the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) 2008/1/CE;
  • To improve the hygienic design of equipment for the fresh-cut product industry.

In addition, SUSCLEAN's research will help to reduce the use of water and chemicals by up to 20-50% (noticeably chlorine), while ensuring food safety, sustainable practices and preserving food quality in the European fresh-cut food industry.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Thierry Bénézech,

Organisation: Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA),