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Originally published April 2 2011

Fresh spinach too dangerous for children, says microbiologist

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) When in doubt about the safety of your food, just kill it. Well, according to some food safety experts, anyway. A recent Chicago Tribune article suggests that in order to be sure the spinach you eat is free of E. coli, it has to be microwaved for about four minutes.

Charles Pavia, a microbiologist from the New York Institute of Technology, recently conducted a study on what it takes to kill dangerous pathogens from spinach. Presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Boston, the study claims that boiling spinach for 30 seconds destroys up to 93 percent of bacteria. When boiled for a minute, spinach becomes 98 percent bacteria-free, and at two minutes, 99 percent of bacteria is destroyed.

But according to the study, the best way to make sure practically all bacteria is killed is to nuke spinach for four minutes in the microwave. Anything less, and some bacteria is sure to remain, which can be potentially harmful to those who are susceptible to infection from even low pathogen counts.

Of course not everyone will get sick from very low levels of pathogens, especially those with strong immune systems and healthy diets, but Pavia explained that cooking spinach for two minutes will at least significantly reduce pathogen counts, making food safer.

So what about fresh spinach? Well, according to Pavia, it is not safe.

"I think the take-home message really is, if you don't want to cook your spinach, don't give it to a child, based on what we know about who gets sickest the most," he emphasized.

Spinach is not inherently dangerous, though. E. coli is found primarily in cattle feces, which often spreads from conventional cattle lots onto nearby fields, contaminating produce; the bacteria does not occur naturally on produce. In other words, killing living foods to eliminate dangerous bacteria treats the symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself.

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