UV lighting is applied in various industries, such as food and water sanitation. Since its discovery in 1801, UV lighting is preferred in more industrial and lab areas. Some applications are medical therapy, bar codes, optical sensors, forensic analysis, DNA sequencing, bug zappers, drug discovery, and other lab applications.
Among all applications, the most common one is disinfection. So, does UV light damage food? Many foods and water industries use UV-C lighting on a large scale. Home-based UV applications can only go as far as using buy zappers in the form of lamps. I would say that UV application is limited to commercial and large residential settings because of the potential risk. We are going to assess the benefits and risks when using UV lighting on food.
Does UV Light Damage Food?
Disinfecting using UV lighting is referred to as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation. The process utilizes short wavelength UV light to eliminate the microorganisms. The UV destroys their DNA and disfigures the germs’ nucleic acids. In this way, the UV light disables pathogens, therefore, cannot perform cellular functions.
UVGI’s effectiveness depends on:
- The amount of time UV contacts microorganisms.
- The UV intensity and wavelength.
- Presence of organisms that can protect the pathogens from the UV.
- The ability of the pathogen to tolerate the UV radiation.
Does UV light damage food? UV lighting does more good than harm when it comes to food safety. During production, only fruits, vegetables, and juices can have prolonged exposure to UV radiation. The surfaces of fruits and vegetables are smooth, which allows the penetration of UV rays. Furthermore, the juice, just like water, is fluid; hence UV lighting is more effective.
In the food production of canned foods such as noodles, spaghetti, and others, UV penetration is less effective. Therefore, at most, you can only disinfect the cans when they are empty and full. But ensure that the material of the packaging is immune to UV radiation.
In conclusion, UV light does not damage food; it only damages the pathogens in the food.
Best Ways That UV Light Can Help with Food Safety
UV light is used in various ways to help with food safety. These uses include:
Disinfecting Food in Restaurants:
This method has not been in long use until the appearance of the Corona Virus breakout. Now that the effects are remarkably visible to each of us, opening eateries comes up with effective measures. These food businesses use UV lighting as a medium for disinfecting food- majorly fruits and vegetables.
I will give an example of a UV light disinfection application in an eatery. There are UV chambers in tunnels that the restaurant-owners position at different points in a restaurant. Empty food cans pass through the tunnels. They retreat once you seal the food. The customers take the final product.
Disinfecting Food During Production:
In the case of industries, empty food boxes pass through the UV light tunnel first. They then pass through the same tunnel after filling food. Next, they flush it using food-grade Nitrogen to eliminate moisture. Without adding preservatives, they seal the food, and it’s now ready to go on the shelf.
This benefits the consumers and producers because of the safety involved. Additionally, canned food has prolonged longevity until the expiry date. It can stay for almost a month after safe production.
This may seem a little bit unrelated to food safety. However, the air surrounding our food equally needs to be free from microorganisms. Those microorganisms can land on our food while eating. Air disinfection has become easier and convenient.
Some of the methods to disinfect air are UV lamps, HVAC units, and fans. UV lamps have a shield and in-built fans that force the air around them to move through them. The UV light gets rid of the microorganisms in the air, passing through the lamp.
H VAC units expose the air around them to UV light hence getting rid of micro-organisms. It is bigger; thus, it can work for an entire room. Since we relate air disinfection to food safety, I believe that these units should be cooking and eating areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
People ask a lot of questions regarding UV light and food damage. We have sampled a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Is UV light bad for humans?
Yes, overexposure to ultraviolet rays is likely to cause skin and eye damage. The best way to prevent damage to you is by creating a UV system with a reverse occupancy sensor. It ensures that the UV system stops if a person is present.
Can UV lighting cause cancer?
Skin cancer often results from sun UV rays. Artificial UV disinfection problems could be carcinogenic, but the effect is controllable. When entering a UV disinfection area, you should wear protective gear.
Does UV damage fabric?
To some extent, they do. Although the effect of UV on fabric is not excessive, the rays cause it to fade. Mostly, the UV rays combine with light to break up chemical bonds in fabrics. This ultimately causes fading.
Is it safe to use UV lighting at home?
Inappropriate implementation of germicidal UV lighting can cause eye or skin damage. This is prone to situations where there is direct exposure to the UV medium. Even materials such as rubber should stay away from UV lighting.
Can UV treat skin conditions?
According to a report done by Mayo Clinic, UV rays can be used in medical therapy. They stall the overgrowth of skin cells and improve the immune system. Some of the skin conditions are psoriasis, vitiligo, and many more.
Does UV light damage food? There has been a lot of concern regarding the safety levels of UV lighting in food processing activities. However, because UV lighting is approved by the USA Food and Drug Administration, this method is safe. I hope that this information has cleared the majority of your doubts. In the future, you will be able to handle UV emitting systems appropriately.
I think that the concern about UV lighting effects on food and other applicable areas is valid. There are strict guidelines that the industries adhere to, and that makes us feel at ease. The entire science and structured process are difficult to understand. However, the bottom line remains that UV lighting is safe for food disinfection.