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How a Canadian farmer is changing the food safety industry

February 2, 2022

The incredible origin story of Clean Works, the designer of a new bag and basket sanitizer at Sobeys, Orangeville.

Meet Paul Moyer of Clean Works

This is the story of a Canadian farmer who got into the candy apple business, which led him to the food safety business. It’s the story of a farmer with a fresh idea based on simple science that could revolutionize the food safety industry. It’s the story about how Paul Moyer’s invention became the perfect counterpart to Sobeys’ commitment to eliminate plastic grocery bags in all Sobeys stores.

Recently, he took a break from making caramel apples at his apple factory to chat with us about his invention, Clean Works Here’s his story in his own words, as told to OurPart.

Farming is in my blood

I’m an eighth- or ninth-generation fruit farmer in Niagara, Ontario. My brother and I took over the farm from my dad in 1990. Since then, he’s run the farm, and I’ve focused on the sales and marketing, including value-add endeavors, like gourmet candy apples – which began in 2013 and 2014, totally took off.

The candy apple crisis of 2015

In 2015, the candy apple industry took a devastating hit. Some suppliers had purchased apples with listeria on them, and it forced a recall. Though our apples weren’t contaminated, our sales were affected – customers were understandably shaken. I kept thinking: There must be a better way to clean apples and prevent outbreaks like this. People shouldn’t have to worry about whether their produce is safe.

A stroke of genius

With a background in microbiology, I wondered if UV light or ozone could work to clean fruit. So, my partners and I teamed up with Dr. Keith Warriner, a food science specialist at the University of Guelph, to develop food safety technology that uses UV light, hydrogen peroxide vapor, and ozone to sanitize produce and containers before distribution. We didn’t have a huge budget, so we were experimenting from home with supplies from Canadian Tire. And through science, we developed simple technology that works.

The science is simple

UV light cleans to a power of one. Hydrogen peroxide works to a power of one. So, you’d think one plus one equals two, right? That was my theory, too. But in this case, one plus one equals 10 – meaning that the combination of UV light and peroxide are far more powerful together and have a greater effect together than their individual properties. Together, the ingredients become 10 times more powerful. We’re creating H2O-3, but it breaks down to H2O and O2 – meaning, oxygen and water. Two of the most simple, natural things that we need in life. Yet it’s up to 99.99 percent effective at killing harmful pathogens and mold, and it’s completely food safe.

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If this can be used on N95 masks, I wonder if it can be used to sanitize our shopping bags and baskets? 

The Health Canada bump

Our invention had garnered attention, awards, and accolades not only here in Canada, but internationally, too. When Health Canada heard about our technology, they asked: “Will this technology work to sanitize N95 face masks?” They tested it, and proved it did! So last year we teamed up to create the Clean Flow Health Care Mini, which can sanitize up to 800 N95 masks per hour.

That’s when we caught Sobeys attention

Sobeys has sold our caramel apples since we began producing them. And, as a forward-thinking company, they saw our technology and wanted to be a part of it. I think they were impressed by this food-safe technology that was born and raised here in Canada, just like Sobeys. Plus, Sobeys had just promised to eliminate plastic grocery bags from Sobeys grocery stores and wanted to offer customers options to help sanitize their reusable bags. They thought: If this technology works on N95 masks, I wonder if it can sanitize our shopping bags and baskets, too? We ran the tests with excellent results, and Sobeys asked us to bring it to life, so we did!

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Most users don’t wash their reusable bags. Do you? 

Clean Works bag sanitizer in action

The pilot machine is at the front of the store by the carts at Sobeys Orangeville, which just underwent a huge renovation. The machine can sanitize four reusable grocery bags in 30 seconds. It’s designed to help ensure that grocery totes remain sanitary and can even help break down pesticide residues. Even better? It’s as easy as 1-2-3: Open the door, mount your bags, and push a button. Done! And it’s completely free!

Customers are loving it

I’ve been going into Sobeys Orangeville to introduce customers to the machine and tell them about the science behind it. It’s a simple sell: This technology that we developed here in Niagara for the food industry is the same technology now used in a hundred hospitals across the country. And it’s a combination of UV light, ozone, and hydrogen peroxide. There are no harmful chemicals, and it will sanitize your bag from 99.99% of microorganisms. Almost everyone who takes me up on it is surprised that their bag comes out completely dry. One woman was so excited about it that she found her husband and brought him back to show him how the machine worked. The CEO of Clean Works and I stood back and watched with pride as she went on to explain it to a few other people that were passing through the store! It’s great to see those reactions.

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Clean Works kills 99.9% of microorganisms. 

The future looks bright (and clean!)

Three years ago, I bet that very few people would have walked into a store and sanitized their hands. Now, it’s normal. That’s what I hope happens with Clean Works bag sanitizers: that they become a normal part of grocery shopping. I can see this technology being used everywhere in 10 years’ time – hospitals, airports, growers and producers, grocery stores and beyond!

Essentially, my story is the story of a farmer who made it happen

Mine is a very simple story of a guy with an idea who had enough backing to turn this into very real science that would change the way people sanitized food and containers. I saw a need, and I filled that need. I get to live on my farm, yet I get to touch a lot of people’s lives. We’ve won awards, we’ve garnered international attention. But at the bottom line, the consumer wins. And I’m so proud of that.

Follow along with Clean Works on Facebook and Twitter, and Visit cleanworkscorp.com today.