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April 16, 2008 — Washing fresh fruits and
vegetables before eating may reduce the risk of food poisoning and
those awful episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. But washing alone --
even with chlorine disinfectants -- may not be enough, according to a
new study by researchers in Pennsylvania.
Studies show that certain disease-causing microbes are masters at
playing hide-and-go seek with such chemical sanitizers. These bacteria
can make their way inside the leaves of lettuce, spinach and other
vegetables and fruit, where surface treatments cannot reach. In
addition, microbes can organize themselves into tightly knit
communities called biofilms that coat fruits and vegetables and protect
the bacteria from harm.
This kind of bacterial community can harbor multiple versions of
infectious, disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli.
Now, new findings from Brendan A. Niemira and colleagues suggest
that irradiation, a food treatment currently being reviewed by the FDA,
can effectively kill internalized pathogens that are beyond the reach
of conventional chemical sanitizers.
Irradiation exposes food to a source of electron beams, creating
positive and negative charges. It disrupts the genetic material of
living cells, inactivating parasites and destroying pathogens and
insects in food, including E. coli and Salmonella, the scientists say.
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