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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