When you walk through your local grocery store, most of the food that you see has undergone a common set of measures to control any microbes that might make you sick, like Salmonella. Dairy products have been pasteurized. Fruits and vegetables have been treated with chlorine. Animal proteins have been washed down with steam or hot water. Ready-to-eat products have been thoroughly cooked.

What about dry foods like seeds, nuts and spices?

These foods are typically consumed raw or minimally processed, and are eaten individually or as ingredients (as in granola bars). Unfortunately, the existing mechanical and chemical means used to control microbes do not work for dry foods. They provide insufficient efficacy, change the taste, smell and appearance of the foods, and degrade the foods’ nutritional profiles.

The United States has issued five recalls for nuts already this year. The most recent recall was for walnuts after Salmonella was detected in the packages. Other recalls this year include both pecans and macadamia nuts.

As this is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, I’m spotlighting one company that recognizes the food safety challenges specific to dry foods and is addressing them.


Toronto-based startup Agri-Neo has developed Neo-Pure, an organic sanitizer that provides broad-spectrum control of microbes on dry foods. Neo-Pure is a powerful oxidizer that is applied to seeds, nuts and spices as an aqueous solution. It destroys microbes on contact and works both on the surface and inside the cracks and crevices of dry foods. It then biodegrades completely, leaving behind no residue. Neo-Pure does not affect product integrity, leaving the taste, smell, appearance and nutritional profile of dry foods unchanged.

Neo-Pure has already been approved by Health Canada and is certified organic, halal and kosher. It is also endorsed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point as an active intervention step to destroy microbes prior to food packaging.

Food safety solutions like Neo-Pure have the potential to both reduce spoilage and satisfy the safety requirements of retailers and regulators. The best part about Neo-Pure—especially in light of this week—is that it’s a Canadian solution to a global problem.

Photo credit: Salmonella Research by EMSL under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Jennifer Minelli

Jennifer manages the accelerating ventures program at MaRS, supporting high-growth ventures in the cleantech, health and information & communications technology (ICT) sectors.See more…