Open up a pint of strawberries from the grocery store, and more often than not youll find a fuzzy berry or two in the mix. A blast of chlorine dioxide gas, however, promises to not only keep those berries fuzz-free, but also to kill off harmful bacteria living on their surface more efficiently than methods currently used by the food industry, say Purdue University researchers.
"Strawberries are tricky," said Rich Linton, professor of food science and one of the leaders of the current study on decontaminating strawberries. "Theyre notoriously difficult to clean, and their surface composition actually encourages bugs to grow."
Those bugs can include potentially lethal bacteria, such as E. coli, as well as viruses including hepatitis A, which caused an outbreak linked to frozen strawberries in 1996. "The issue with strawberries is that theyre easily contaminated," Linton said. "Theyre grown in close association with soil, where they may pick up pathogens such as E. coil from manure-based fertilizers, and theyre hand-picked, providing another avenue for contamination."
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