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Lettuce's Roots Lure Salmonella
Date:10/11/2007

stration issued voluntary guidelines for food industry processors to minimize contamination of ready-to-eat produce.

Reporting online Oct. 11 in The International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal, a team at Wageningen University in The Netherlands maintain that salmonella infections from produce are also becoming increasingly common. In these cases, infection can come from poor hygiene among workers or contamination via soil or water tainted with animal manure.

In this paper, the researchers reveal that salmonella bacteria move towards the roots of the lettuce, apparently attracted by a sugar-like carbon source located there. When the bacteria gets close, the molecule triggers a genetic signal which, in turn, triggers bacterial reproduction.

While government and industry are actively looking for ways to prevent salmonella infection in the field and during the processing stages, there are ways people can protect themselves at home:

  • Make sure ground beef and other meats, as well as eggs, are well-cooked before you eat them.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables with soap. Pay particular attention to leafy greens as there are lots of crevasses and cracks where bacteria can hide.
  • Don't chop vegetables on the same block where you just made beef hamburgers or prepared other meat. Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly.
  • Avoid bruised produce such as tomatoes.
  • Make sure all cooking utensils including meat thermometers and cutting boards are thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water after you've handled them.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk, juice or cider.

More information

For more information on salmonella, visit the U.S.
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