Saturday, April 19, 2008

Washing fruits is not enough

If you thought washing your fruits and vegetables properly, before eating them, was good enough to weed away all the harmful stuff (chemicals, bacteria, dirt) you are mistaken. According to a recent paper presented at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society (, washing (with water and/or chlorine disinfectants) is not enough. Bacteria, present inside a number of fruits and vegetables (like lettuce, spinach and other green leafy ones) have mastered the art of avoiding getting washed away by water or any chlorine disinfectant we use to clean vegetables.
The modus operandi of these bacteria is very simple. They get inside the leaves or surface of vegetables and fruits and organize themselves into tightly knit communities called
biofilms. These biofilms form a protective layer on fruits and vegetables and save the bacteria from getting washed away by disinfectants! So no matter how much you wash a fruit or a vegetable, it has no effect on these bacteria. (And you thought only humans knew how to strategise and protect themselves!)
Sadly, the bacteria that form these films and manage to stay in the fruits and vegetables after washing are the disease-causing ones like Salmonella and E-coli. This, experts feel, can lead to serious diseases in human beings. So, isn’t there a solution in sight?
Of course, there is. Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture suggest that a technique called
irradiation is the solution. It involves exposing the fruits and vegetables to electron beams. This leads to disruption of the genetic materials in the living cells and inactivates parasites and destroys pathogens hiding inside the leaves. The technique, used earlier during the 2001 Anthrax attacks, is currently being analysed by the FDA for safety in application to fruits and vegetables.
Till the time it is approved and available freely, continue washing your vegetables and fruits with water. You may not be able to protect yourself completely, but you will be able to eradicate the chances of having vomiting and diarrhea from fresh fruits and vegetables!

For more details on this, refer to the original EurekAlert Press Release:

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