Purpose: This study aimed at collecting information on the practices employed by Brazilian RTEV processing plants, especially regarding water usage.
Methods: Ten RTEV processing plants located in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, were visited and a questionnaire composed of 45 questions focusing water usage in pre-washing, washing and rinsing steps was applied. The questions addressed the RTEV washing method, water temperature, disinfectant applied, reuse and discharge of water used in the washing-disinfection step.
Results: In all surveyed processing plants, raw materials are kept under refrigeration (2-8ºC) until processed. All plants performed pre-washing, and in 1, 4 and 5 plants, the pre-washing is done using running water, agitated immersion and static immersion, respectively. In 6 plants, the water used in the pre-washing step is added of chlorine-based products or a detergent. In all plants, washing-disinfection is carried out by immersion (static, 70%; and agitated, 30%) of the vegetables in water containing chlorine-based products (organic chlorine 70%, sodium hypochlorite 10%, and chloride dioxide 20%) for 2-20 min. In 3 plants, processing water is reutilized. All plants perform partial or total replacement of water (one to five times per day). Rinsing of vegetables is applied in 5 plants: 1 uses running water, 1 uses aspersion-agitation and 3 immerse them in water. Only 2 plants use chilled water (9.5 and 12.3ºC) throughout processing. The processing room is refrigerated (10ºC) in only one plant. A centrifugation step, at an average of 120 rpm for 1.5 min, is applied in 8 plants. Five plants record the temperatures during RTEV transportation to retail.
Significance: These findings constitute a building block for further assessment of cross-contamination during RTEV processing in Brazil.