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Study shows electron-beam irradiation reduces virus-related health risk in lettuce, spinach
Date:2/6/2012

COLLEGE STATION A team of scientists studying the effects of electron-beam irradiation on iceberg lettuce and spinach has had its research published in the February issue of the leading microbiology journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, said the study's lead investigator.

The study quantified the theoretical health-risk reduction from virus-related foodborne illness through the use of electron-beam irradiation.

"The purpose of this study was twofold," said Dr. Suresh Pillai, director for the National Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M University in College Station. "First we wanted to determine poliovirus and rotavirus sensitivity to electron-beam irradiation on fresh-cut lettuce and spinach. Secondly, we wanted to quantify the theoretical reduction in health risk of lettuce and spinach at different contamination levels and electron-beam doses."

Pillai said the study is important due to growing concern over viral infections transmitted through fresh produce, health-care costs associated with foodborne viruses and the dearth of quantified data on health-risk reduction through the use of electron-beam irradiation.

"Viruses are the No. 1 cause of all foodborne illnesses," he said.

Pillai said this was a collaborative study involving the center, the Instituto de Ecologia at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, and School of Public Health at the El Paso Regional Campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The study, originally published online ahead of print in mid-December, cites the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University estimate of current health-care costs associated with foodborne viruses at about $6 billion.

Pillai said while norovirus is the leading cause of viral foodborne illnesses, all enteric viruses, including poliovirus and rotavirus, can cause foodborne infection that may lead to chronic disease complications.

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Contact: Dr. Suresh Pillai
spillai@poultry.tamu.edu
979-845-2994
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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