Ontario company brings first food safety treatment for dry foods to market

By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Toronto – It’s a biodegradable organic sanitizer developed specifically to eliminate microbes on dry foods like seeds, spices, nuts, and powders.

Watch the video by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies.

This sustainable technology is a made-in-Ontario invention that is the first product of its kind to be approved by Health Canada for use after harvest. Neo-Pure, a product of Toronto-based Agri-Neo, has been on the market in Canada since last December.

Agri-Neo Rob Wong small

Agri-Neo’s Rob Wong

“Most food products go through some kind of preventive treatment to eliminate microbes such as yeast, mould, coliforms, and pathogens like Salmonella and E.coli. Dry foods, however, don’t lend themselves to conventional treatments because those treatments can change the taste, appearance, and nutritional profile of products like seeds, spices, nuts, and powders,” explains company President Rob Wong.

Milk, for example, is pasteurized; fruits and vegetables undergo a chlorine wash, but for dry foods, there is no industry standard for microbe control.

The only consistent measure for food safety has been sampling.

“Every truck of chia seed or black pepper, for example, is tested for microbes, but several small samples from a whole truckload won’t necessarily catch everything, so you do see a lot of recalls of dry foods,” he adds.

Neo-Pure is a wettable powder that is combined with water and then misted onto dry food products at processing, as close to packaging as possible to minimize additional points of possible contamination.

Once Neo-Pure comes into contact with a microbe, it destroys it instantaneously by breaking it down in multiple ways, and then biodegrades completely – without changing the taste, appearance, or nutritional profile of the food it is treating.

Neo-Pure is safe to use and apply, as well as being highly effective, says Wong, adding that it’s also certified organic, Halal and Kosher, and has been endorsed by HACCP Canada as a tool to control microbes in food processing environments during the critical control point before packaging.

It is effective on a broad spectrum of contaminants, and Agri-Neo has developed an affordable in-plant system that can be used by processors of all sizes to apply Neo-Pure.

“Neo-Pure is unique because products that are usually very safe for the environment and humans tend to be less effective than man-made synthetics,” he says. “Since our launch, we’ve treated hundreds of tons of dry foods, and testing shows we consistently destroy microbial contaminants so the food is safe to eat.”

The product is aimed at major food processors and manufacturers producing branded or private label seeds, spices, nuts, and powders.

Neo-Pure is currently being manufactured in Quebec, but the long-term vision is to move all operations to Ontario. The company is also pursuing approval from the U.S Food and Drug Administration to launch Neo-Pure south of the border.

Agri-Neo was founded in 2009 and is located in Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District. The company’s mission, says Wong, is to help feed the world safely by developing novel, biodegradable technologies to control bacteria and fungi all across the food chain, including before planting, while crops are growing, and after harvest.

“There is a big push towards using more sustainable solutions, and we’re on the leading edge of this trend,” believes Wong. “The demand is there for products like ours that can increase crop yields and make food safer, and do so in a sustainable manner. This will only become more important over time as we need to produce more food with fewer resources.”

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