If there is one thing that haunts the dreams of chefs and restaurant owners, it’s food poisoning.
The nightmare of e-coli poisoning, salmonella, a bacterial infection, or even just an off piece of fish has always encouraged kitchen staff to make good use of strong chemicals to ensure the safety and hygiene of their workspace.
However, with a newfound concern for the long-term effects of chemicals around food - and those who are preparing it - researchers began to look at natural alternatives. It was soon discovered that by supplying a saline solution with a small electrical charge, you could split them to create two solutions: one a sanitiser with the negative ions, and the other an all-purpose cleaner with the positive ions.
Phil Gregory is the founder and chairman of eWater Australia, and first heard about this electrolysing water system just over a decade ago. He was in the pub with a friend, a kitchen consultant, who had just returned home from a trade show in Japan. Electrolysed water was all the rage over there - in Japan, electrolysed water had been used for decades to sanitise kitchens, clean sushi ingredients, fill swimming pools, and for even used for medical procedures. But it was yet to reach the mainstream consciousness here in Australia.
“Our founder, Phil Gregory, was first told about this technology by a mate at the pub,” says eWater Director Dawn O’Neil. “At first he couldn’t believe it. He thought ‘this is too good to be true’. How could you use salt, water, and electricity and create something so powerful that it kills bacteria and do all of these things!”
So Phil started to do some research, and found thousands and thousands of studies online proving in scientific detail the legitimacy of electrolyte water. (You can find some of those articles here.) As it turned out, it wasn’t too good to be true at all. He thought about it for a while, and decided to take a leap of faith. He would bring electrolysed water to Australia.
That was ten years ago now, and eWater Systems Australia has grown into an industry leader. Used in kitchens across the country, from Parliament house to hospitals, high-end dining to aged care facilities; ‘eWater’ has gained a reputation for being environmentally friendly, toxin-free, low-cost, and best of all - so easy to use.
For years, industries such as hospitality have been trying to find an alternative to the standard cleaning solutions. Generally chlorine or bleach based, cleaning products cause incredible damage to both the environment and the people using them. Those who are regularly exposed to commercial-grade cleaners often suffer from dermatitis, whilst contributing to the issue of growing resistance of bacteria to antibacterial substances.
“I think the biggest environmental threat is bacterial resistance to antibacterial handwashing and other substances because of overuse,” says Dawn.
“Many of the ingredients used in these cleaning products are actually banned in the US, but not in Australia yet. They’re not all that effective, and it’s creating a huge risk of bacteria becoming resistant.”
eWater has also worked to disrupt the destructive processes that are involved in the creation of normal cleaning products. “Traditional packaged chemicals are made in big factories that emit toxins into the air,” she says.
“Then they have to be transported and manufactured, put in plastic containers that they have to throw away, and that all goes into landfill - the carbon footprint is huge.”
eWater is the sustainable solution. The salt and water combination is safe enough to drink and wash your food in, and is toxic only to the dangerous bacteria it is able to eradicate in just five seconds. The environmental impact of the eWater System is considerable - since it was introduced, it as prevented 75 million litres of chemicals from entering the supply chain in Australia, and diverted millions of plastic containers and other packaging from landfill.
Because the eWater System is installed for endless supplies of the sanitizers and cleaning fluids, the long-term savings are huge - somewhere to the tune of a combined $9.5m worth of savings to clients to date.
In an industry that relies on absolute sterility of their work surfaces, how has eWater provided peace of mind to Australia’s most important restaurants?
In Australia there are around 5.4 million cases of food poisoning each year resulting in an average of 120 deaths. Approximately 2.1 million days are taken off work due to food poisoning and 1.2 million doctor consultations take place with 300,000 antibiotic prescriptions issued. Fair to say that kitchen hygiene is a serious matter for the hospitality industry.
However, in their ten year history, eWater cannot report a single incident of food poisoning at the venues in which their product is used.
How? Well, eWater Sanitiser has powerful antibacterial and fungicidal properties that makes it 80 times more effective at killing dangerous bacteria and pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella than its chlorine-based competitors. What’s more, it kills them faster – usually in less than five seconds.
Traditional cleaning methods and utensils such as soap pumps, hand towels, dishcloths, sponges, and even the spray bottles themselves can carry on the germs during the cleaning process. With eWater, however, you simply run your hand under the alkaline solution for 6 seconds - which, remarkably, feels like a slimy soapy substance still - and then rinse your hands under normal water. No touching, no wiping, and no cross-contamination.
The water has also become known in the cooking community as a sort of ‘fountain of youth’ thanks to its incredible ability to extend the shelf life of everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to fish and meat. eWater director Dawn O’Neil used the sanitiser to clean and cook white rice recently, and said that it undoubtedly produced fluffier, better-tasting rice.
The most exciting part about eWater for the hospitality industry is the price.
New technology - especially ones with impeccable track records like eWater - usually enter the market at high prices. But eWater is affordable upfront, and for the duration of your ownership. Renting the smaller system can cost as little as $6 a day through Silver Chef, whilst having the full installation plumbed into your commercial kitchen can be done in it’s entirety for just $8,500. Ongoing costs are minimal: maintenance visits are necessary only once or twice a year (at the cost of just $340 a visit), whilst the systems runs off nothing more than salt. Yep - plain, iodine-free table salt.
Like other industry leaders in the sustainability space, eWater is proudly BCORP certified. They received their certification in May of 2016, and continues to perform as a disruptive technology replacing millions of litres of packaged chemicals each year in Australia, significantly reducing company carbon and chemical footprints.
“Becoming a B Corp seemed like a logical step given we were founded on the belief that business could be a force for good and not just about making money,” reads a company statement released at the time.
“We are excited about being associated with other enterprises taking this same stance and the potential that together we can shift from a purely capital driven economy to one that values our natural environment, human health and wellbeing.”
For now, eWater exists only in the select commercial kitchens of those who are also willing to take the leap and test out this emerging cleaning technology. However, as the results have shown, this sort of sustainable cleaning concept could completely change the way people use chemicals in years to come. Innovative, environmentally friendly, and actively making waves in the hospitality industry; Silver Chef is so proud to partner with another B Corp focused business.