Claim Check: Ozone Infused Water

By Alisa Opar

Can ozone-infused water remove pesticides from fruits and veggies?

Ads for ozone rinsing systems, which infuse water with the naturally occurring gas, have been popping up on television, in magazines, and on YouTube. At around $200, the appliances are on the pricey side—but some manufacturers claim that their ozone rinses will make conventional fruits and vegetables as pesticide-
free as those grown organically. As one company says, “With the Lotus system, expensive ‘organic’ isn’t the only way to enjoy food with less pesticides!” Are they telling the truth?

The claims:

Ozone-infused water is a chemical-free way to remove pesticides and kill microbes on food and household items.

The facts: 
It’s true that ozone can degrade pesticides. It attacks bacteria, plant pathogens, and animal parasites without harming healthy cells or leaving chemical residue. For decades, many municipal drinking-water systems have used ozone instead of chlorine to kill bacteria, and in 2001, the Food and Drug Administration approved it as an antimicrobial agent on food. But while the idea behind these products is sound, very little independent testing has been done to see if they really work. Two systems were tested by the University of Maine and shown to effectively remove microbes from blueberries, but neither worked as well as distilled water.  In a separate test by Microbiotest (a private lab used by the FDA and EPA), another brand, the Lotus, seemed to work better, removing 99 percent of microbes from produce.  When it comes to pesticide removal, though, there’s less evidence that these machines work well.

Only the Lotus has been independently tested for its performance, and it did reduce (but didn’t eliminate) pesticide residue. On the other hand, research shows that plain water can also significantly decrease pesticide residue. Unfortunately, it seems no one has yet compared ozone systems and tap water head-to-head.  

The conclusion:
Although the science behind these products is credible, we can’t vouch for any specific system. No matter how well a product removes pesticides and microbes from produce, we suggest buying organic. That way there’s no doubt you and the environment are spared from pesticide exposure.                                                    

Issue 25

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