A more effective way of cleaning vegetables such as leafy greens can dramatically reduce the risk of contamination, according to a Canadian research study.
The new way of cleaning produce will not only make food safer to consume, but it should also extend the shelf life of products because vegetables are often spoiled by microbial action.
At least 19 food-borne illness outbreaks have been linked to leafy greens since 1995, resulting in two deaths and 425 people becoming seriously ill, according to figures from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Problems with contaminated vegetables getting to the market can occur when pathogens actually get into the internal tissue of such greens as lettuce, said Keith Warriner, a professor at the University of Guelph's department of food science. When lettuce is harvested for bagged salads it is normally kept cool in containers of water and then washed again at the processing plant, he said. If the water is contaminated, which it sometimes is, bacteria will be passed onto the lettuce. "You can wash it for as long as you like, but you're not going to remove all the pathogens because they can hide in cut edges and the pores of the lettuce leaves," he said.
To find a way to eliminate pathogens in vegetables, Warriner, along with researcher Christina Hajdok, decided to apply the same method used to decontaminate food cartons.
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