Applications and Uses of Electrolyzed Water in the Food Industry


By Anna Ellington, Food Science Undergraduate


What is Electrolyzed Water?


Electrolyzed water, also referred to as Electrolyzed Oxidizing (EO) water, is formed by adding a very small amount of NaCl (normally around 0.1%) to pure water, and conducting a current across an anode and cathode (AT 2005).  This can be performed by a commercially available electrolysis device like the one pictured below. 


Electrolyzed Water Oxidizing Unit

                                             (FPTD 2001)


The electrolysis unit normally operates at around 10-20 V of DC, which is a low level of voltage.  The device can have either a single cell chamber or a two-cell chamber, which would be separated by a diaphragm. (Koeski and others 2003)


The cathode area produces alkaline (high pH), reducing water.  The anode area produces acidic (low pH), oxidizing water (AT 2005).


This graphic shows the composition of the acidic and alkaline products of electrolysis.

                                                                           (AT 2005)

Some Background Information on Electrolyzed Water


Since the mid 1980’s, electrolyzed water has been certified for use in Japan as a medical product.  The first form of electrolyzed water that was developed was the acidic type, and it was accepted quickly by the food industry in Japan.  It was found to be useful at killing bacteria and parasites on raw fish without altering the sensory characteristics of the fish.   The next type developed was the alkaline type, and was used in Japanese hospitals as an energy enhancer and to alkalize the body.  It was discovered that by drinking just six ounces a day, the body could alkalize quickly, and when mixed in drinking water, the body hydrated faster (WDM 2004).


Back then, the only problem with the electrolyzed water was that it had a very short shelf life, about two weeks; therefore mostly only people with access to an electrolysis machine could be gain from its benefits (WDM 2004).  


What are the Proposed Benefits of Electrolyzed Water?


Currently in the U.S., chlorine and chlorine containing compounds are the most common methods of disinfection in the food industry.  However, concerns have been raised about the effectiveness and safety of chlorine. 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are mainly concerned with E. Coli 0157:H57 and L. moncetogenes in and on the food supply because of the number of cases they cause and the severity of their symptoms.  Chlorine is used because it is effective against bacteria with only a short to moderate contact time.   Other forms of chlorine used, such as chlorine gas in water, can act as an antimicrobial (Kim and others 2000).  However, recent reports indicate when chlorine is exposed to some products, such as cutting boards treated with triclosan, a carcinogenic effect is formed.  This is because when chlorine comes in contact with organic material, chloroform develops, which is considered a “possible human carcinogen” (Betts 2005).  Due to this questionable safety, the need for other means of eliminating possible food pathogens has risen.  Therefore, the use of electrolyzed water has now become a product of interest for people in the food industry in the U.S..


Benefits to Fresh Produce


Acetic electrolyzed water was shown to have decontaminative effects on the surfaces of lettuce by significantly reducing the aerobic bacteria, coliform bacteria, molds, and yeasts.  It has also been tested and shown that EO water has no impact on the sensory quality of lettuce, which included taste, smell, and texture (Koseki and others 2001).  Acetic Electrolyzed water has also been shown to effectively inactivate Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella enteritidis and Listeria monocytogenes on lettuce (Park and others 2001).


A study done on alfalfa seeds and sprouts determined that the use of EO water on these products yielded a reduced growth of Salmonella as compared to the control (Kim and others 2003).


Another study that was done in Japan determined that tomatoes that were spot inoculated with Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes showed a significant log reduction in numbers of inoculate present (Bari and others 2003).


All of these study's findings suggest that electrolyzed water could be useful in controlling pathogenic microorganisms on fresh produce.


Benefits to Food Contact Surfaces

 A study done on E. Coli and L. monocytogenes on plastic kitchen cutting boards revealed that immersing the plastic board in electrolyzed water would yield an effective method for inactivating these pathogens (Venkitanarayanan and others 1999).


Another study performed on these same pathogens using electrolyzed water indicated significant log reductions, as well as total elimination in some cases.  See table below.


                                                                                                                                (Kim 2000)

This table shows the inactiviation of E. Coli and L. monocytogenes in 30 seconds with the JAW EO water and chemically modified solutions containing 13 mg/l chlorine water, 13 mg/l chlorine water plus 0.0076% hydrochloric acid, 72 mg/l bromine water, 72 mg/l bromine water plus 2% acetic acid and 13 mg/l chlorine water plus 2% acetic acid.  However, the other solutions had no effect. (Iron was added to reduce ORP readings) (Kim 2000).


Electrolyzed water has been shown to inactivate Staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA), which is one of the major enterotoxins believed to be responsible for food poisonings (Suzuki and others 2002).




This bar graph shows the reduction in Staphylococcal enterotoxin A after exposure to acetic and alkaline electrolyzed water.

                                                              (Suzuki and others 2002)


Benefits to Meat Products


Electrolyzed water has been shown to be equally as effective as chlorine at reducing the number of Camplobacter jejuni on fresh poultry carcasses.  However, this study also found that diluted EO water was more effective than diluted chlorine water for inactivating C. jejuni.  Both of these findings are important because chlorine can be harmful to workers, whereas EO water is not (Park and others 2002).


In the University of Georgia’s poultry department, the use of electrolyzed water has been shown to have an impact on populations of pathogenic bacteria including Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, and Listeria monocytogenes, which can be found on fresh eggs.  It was determined to be effective when used in conjunction with electrostatic spraying for the elimination of pathogenic populations of bacteria from egg surfaces, in many cases completely eliminating the pathogen, which in some instances was applied in doses much higher than would actually be seen in industry (Russell 2003).



Benefits to the Human Body


Doctors in Japan have been using Electrolyzed water for years and claim it has numerous benefits to the body.  One of their health claims is that it can lower high blood pressure, which they say is because the alkaline water is a good solvent and dissolves the buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels.  Another claim is that it can treat heart disease because of electrolyzed waters ability to “neutralize toxins.”  Preventing allergies is another health claim made by Japanese doctors, and this they say is because the electrolyzed water “controls the acidity in the body.  Other claims are that is eases the symptoms of eczema, digestive problems, diabetes, toxemia, and obesity (WDM 2004). 




Why is Electrolyzed Water Important to the Food Industry?


Electrolyzed water definitely has a lot of potential uses for the food industry.  Possibilities for the use of electrolyzed water are growing but one basic and proven application is using it as a disinfectant on food contact surfaces.  This is advantageous to industry because it involves on-site production of the disinfectant, which means there are no chemicals to store or handling costs of chemicals to deal with (SEI 2001).  Another proven effective use is its application directly on fresh food products to reduce the number of microorganisms or pathogens present.  It may even have the prospect of replacing the use of pesticides (SEI 2001).

It also has possibilities in the area of specialized food products.  There is potential use of electrolyzed water on food products that can be of benefit to people with diseases such as gout.  It could be used to decrease the amount of purine in foods such as red meats and scallops, so people who suffer from gout are better able to consume the product and not suffer from the effects of that disease (Hung 2005). 


This graphic illustrates all the different forms of electrolyzed water and gives a better idea of how it is broken down for its potential uses.

                                                                                                                                  (AT 2005)




A company called RPA Biotech now manufactures electrolyzed water under the name Electrolyzed Plus Concentrate for consumers personal use.  On its website it claims the benefits of electrolyzed water include its abilities to:

·         Flush Toxins

·         Hydrate the body

·         Attract and neutralize free radicals

·         Restore balance to the body chemistry

·         Increase stable oxygen in the body

·         Enhance the deliver of nutrients

·         Make acidic foods and beverages more alkaline

·         Support the immune system

Anyone interested in using electrolyzed water can order it from RPA Biotech’s website:


Alkaline (reducing) water is available as a concentrate which can be mixed with any “good” (filtered, purified, RO or distilled but not tap) water to create a micro-structured, alkaline, antioxidant water for consumption. This superb drinking water is noted for its ability to:


Flush Toxins


Hydrate the body


Attract and neutralize free radicals


Restore balance to the body chemistry


Increase stable oxygen in the body


Enhance the deliver of nutrients


Make acidic foods and beverages more alkaline


Support the immune system

































[AT] Aqua Technology. 2005. Electrolyzed Water.  Available from:


Bari, M.L., Sabina, Y., Isobe, S., Umemura, T. and Isshiki, K., 2003. Effectiveness of electrolyzed acidic water in killing Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella enteritidis, and Listeria monocytogenes on the surface of tomatoes. Journal of Food Protection. 66:542–548.


Betts, Kellyn. 2005. Environmental Science and Technology. When chlorine + antimicrobials = unintended consequences. Available From:


[FPTD] Food Processing Technology Division. Georgia Tech Research Institute. 2001. The Food Chain. Electric Water Better at Killing Bacteria on Food. Mar-Apr 2001. 5:5.  Available From:


Hung, Yen-Con. April 2005.  Personal conversation about the potential benefits of electrolyzed water.


Kim, C., Hung, Y., Brackett, R. and Lin, C., 2003. Efficacy of electrolyzed oxidizing water in inactivating Salmonella on alfalfa seeds and sprouts. Journal of Food Protection. 66:208–214.


Kim, C., Hung, Y.C. and Brackett, R.E., 2000. Efficacy of electrolyzed oxidizing (EO) and chemically modified water on different types of foodborne pathogens. International Journal of Food Microbiology. 61:199–207.


Koseki, Shigenobu, Kyoichiro Yoshida, Yoshinori Kamitani, Seiichiro Isobe and Kazuhiko Itoh. 2003. Effect of mild heat pre-treatment with alkaline electrolyzed waternext term on the efficacy of acidic electrolyzed water against Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on Lettuce. Food Microbiology. 21(5):559-566.


Koseki, S., Yoshida, K., Isobe, S. and Itoh, K.. 2001. Decontamination of lettuce using acidic electrolyzed water. Journal of Food Protection. 64:652–658.


Park H., Y.-C. Hung, R.E. Brackett. 2002. Antimicrobial effect of electrolyzed water for inactivating Campylobacter jejuni during poultry washing.  International Journal of Food Microbiology. 72:77-83.


Park, C.M., Hung, Y.C., Doyle, M.P., Ezeike, G.O.I. and Kim, C.. 2001. Pathogen reduction and quality of lettuce treated with electrolyzed oxidizing and acidified chlorinated water. Journal of Food Science. 66:1368–1372.


RPA Biotech.  2005. Drinking Water. Available from:


Russell, S., 2003. The effect of electrolyzed oxidative water applied using electrostatic spraying on pathogenic and indicator bacteria on the surface of eggs. Poultry Science. 82: 158–162.


[SEI] Science and Education Impact. April 2001. Detecting Food Borne Enemies.  Available From:


Suzuki, T., Itakura, J., Watanabe, M., Ohta, M., Sato, Y. and Yamaya, Y., 2002. Inactivation of Staphylococcal enterotoxin-A with an electrolyzed anodic solution. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. 50:230–234.


Venkitanarayanan K.S., G.O. I. Ezeike, Y.-C. Hung, and M.P. Doyle. 1999. Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes on plastic kitchen cutting boards by electrolyzed oxidizing water. Journal of Food Protection. 62:857-860.


[WDM] Wellness Directory of Minnesota. 2004. Available From: