(NaturalNews) Many supermarkets and food stores stock packaged, trimmed or cut lettuce and spinach as well as other green leaves. It is these minimally processed types of lettuce and spinach that attract food-borne pathogens such as listeria monocytogenes and yersinia enterocolitica. Listeria is the cause of a range of illnesses from flu to the very dangerous meningitis, and Y. Enerocolitica leads to gastric conditions such as diarrhoea.
The reason for the occurrence of the bacteria is that the bacteria have a supportive environment in which to develop. The moisture content, the possible temperature variation and the use of packaging contribute to the development and growth of the bacteria.
Food scientists claim that adhering to best practices in manufacturing and storage will help limit the growth of bacteria. These practices include good manufacturing processes and sanitation, effective control of temperature while storing and distributing products, and limiting the shelf-life expectancy of the products.
Consumers may consider further reducing health risks by purchasing whole heads of lettuce or complete bunches of spinach that are not kept in plastic packaging. These can then be washed using commercially available vegetable wash. Another method is to mix a drop of chlorine in a gallon of water and rinse all produce in the mixture (1).
Lettuce is prone to other forms of bacteria. E. Coli is a fecal bacteria that may also be associated with a range of fresh products. Washing produce is ineffective in removing E. Coli as it is typically within the plant.
Perhaps more well known is salmonella. According to plant scientist Michel Klerks, scientist at Plant Research International, salmonella can spread on and within the lettuce plant. Klerks is investigating ways to reduce the amount of both E. Coli and salmonella from cow manure and thus the fields where lettuce is grown (2). It is believed that one source of these bacteria is the high number of pathogens in cow manure and the aim is to reduce the amount of pathogens.
Both bacteria cause gastroenteritis (diarrhoea), and the elderly as well as young infants are typically prone to all bacterial infections. It is these groups that are likely to have less developed immune systems making them more susceptible to infection. Given this, the aim would be to improve and strengthen the immune system.
Authorities believe the solution lies in irradiating food as a step against bacterial infections. However concern about the value, logistics, consequent loss of quality, as well as the unknown impact of irradiated food on our health system are issues of concern. If the existence of the bacteria is due to unsanitary practices in growing, packing, shipping and storing then these must be addressed.
Some suspect that the nutritional value of the food would be impacted by the radiation which would lead to more nutritional deficiencies and hence disease for the general population, which would affect more than those that are prone to food-borne infections. Are we to be so managed we are given no choice? What level of control in a democratic country is appropriate over what is allowed to go into our bodies?