Chlorine dioxide gas may be useful for killing Salmonella bacteria on sprouts, according to a new study. Researchers found that the gas reduced the presence of Salmonella on sprouts by 99.999%, compared to a 99% reduction achieved with chlorine wash, the industry standard for decontamination.
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What’s the Problem?
Sprouted seeds have a poor contamination record in the U.S. The warm, moist environment in which they grow provides the perfect conditions for bacterial pathogens, namely Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.
Since 1995, at least 51 outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada have been linked to sprouts, the majority of which involved Salmonella bacteria. The worst E. coli outbreak in recorded history, which killed at least a dozen people and sickened 8,500 others, was linked to radish sprouts in Japan in 1996.
On Nov. 22, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis that was linked to bean sprouts. As of Nov. 24, at least 68 people in 10 states were sickened.
While the sprout industry has been searching for a more effective method to sanitize its products, cleaning sprouts is difficult because the food is extremely sensitive and harsh treatment can affect its color and taste. Additionally, sprouts are hard to treat because their porous, uneven surface provides the perfect hiding place for bacterial pathogens.
“There are areas we don’t see,” said Dr. Bassam Annous, ARS research microbiologist and lead author of the study. “They look smooth, but really, if you go into the micro level, it looks like mountains and valleys.”
This is where chlorine dioxide gas may be more effective than aqueous sanitizers because it is able to penetrate these crevices and kill bacteria. Water-based solutions, on the other hand, cannot reach these areas as effectively.
The research team, which included scientists at Rutgers University and the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), found that applying chlorine dioxide gas to sprouts in a tumbler was more effective than applying it to stationary sprouts because the gas was able to reach all sides of the sprouts.
The researchers used Salmonella strains collected from 3 recent sprout-related outbreaks to make sure they were using the type of bacteria that could cause illnesses in humans. They soaked the sprouts in a mixture of the 3 strains for 5 minutes, then let them sit overnight so the Salmonella could develop biofilm, a protective layer that shields the bacteria and provides it with nutrients.
The sprouts were then treated with either chlorine wash or chlorine gas, either in a tumbler or not, for different periods of time. The chlorine wash resulted in a 2-log, or 99%, reduction in Salmonella bacteria, as opposed to the 3-, 4- and 5.5-log, or 99.99%, reductions achieved by the gas. Longer treatment times and being in the tumbler resulted in the highest log reductions.
“It gets the job done,” Annous said of the chlorine dioxide gas.
Do I Have a Food Poisoning Lawsuit?
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Free Food Poisoning Lawsuit Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one has been the victim of food poisoning, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Food Poisoning Suit and we can help.