Only radiation rids fruit, veg of e.coli?

Irraditating food may be the only way of killing the bacteria in your food. Washing fresh fruits and vegetables – a tried and true method for generations – may not be enough to rid them of bacteria like e.coli that cause food poisoning, even if using chlorine disinfectants.

E. coli, salmonella and listeria can all cause illnesses, but destroying the bacteria can be difficult, said microbiologist Brendan Niemira, the lead researcher of a study looking at ways to make fresh produce safer for consumers.

Eliminating bacteria is difficult if they have made their way inside the leaves of lettuce, spinach and other vegetables and fruit, where surface treatments cannot reach them, said Niemira, who presented his findings at the recent American Chemical Society annual meeting in New Orleans.

Irradiating food — like meat, eggs and produce — to cleanse it of harmful bacteria is for the most part not allowed in Canada. The U.S. permits irradiation of some foods, including certain meat products, but the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to add fresh produce to that list.

Food producers may have to look at other methods to keep our food safe. A recently announced vaccine to prevent cattle from developing the deadly e.coli 0157:H7 bacteria may be one solution to a public health problem that sickens thousands of people every year.

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