Joint Chinese-American Effort to Find Natural Solutions to Combat Salmonella
Fruits and vegetables have been linked to numerous outbreaks of salmonella and other pathogens, such as E. coli and Listeria. In fact, according to food poisoning lawyer Ron Simon, who has represented thousands of victims of salmonella food poisoning, the occurrence of salmonella in fresh fruits and vegetables is nearly as common as its occurrence in meat and poultry according to a recent U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.
Now, researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have teamed up with a group of researchers from China’s Tianjin University of Science and Technology and published the results of a study aimed at reducing salmonella in fresh produce. The joint effort found that treatment of tomatoes with the essential oils of three herbs reduced salmonella contamination significantly.
This study was unique in several ways. “Previous papers on gaseous essential oils dealt mostly only with reduction of human pathogens, not about effects on quality,” said Xuetong Fan, one of the authors who is associated with the United States Department of Agriculture. This study is unique in that it also looked at the effect of the oils on the quality of the produce—in this case tomatoes, noting that preventative oil that destroys the overall quality of the product would not be practical. The study looked for enhanced quality and efficacious reduction in salmonella.
Study Used Gaseous Herbal Essential Oils
The study investigated oregano, cinnamon bark, and mustard, and found that each has similar properties of herbs reviewed in previous studies, which included properties that reduce salmonella contamination. But in previous studies, the oils were applied in liquid form and most trials were conducted in vitro, which fails to reflect real-life challenges in many respects. This joint research study chose to use gaseous essential oils and to use real produce as the basis of the study. As Xuetong Fan explained, “Gas has some advantages over washes because gas can diffuse into small crevices on the surface of produce where bacteria hide and chlorine can’t penetrate.” This may be a very important finding, especially given the large outbreaks related to sprouts and cantaloupe, both of which are very difficult to clean.
According to Fan, the gaseous essential oils could end up being a viable alternative to chlorine rinses on some produce. But the question remained, what affect would the essential oils have on the produce?
Quality Tests Conducted for 21 Days on Cherry Tomatoes
“These oils may be beneficial in terms of microbial reduction, but some may have an adverse effect on the quality of fruit,” Fan said, noting that this would greatly limit its practical uses. And in the study, this was just what was found—according to the study, “mustard caused discoloration, loss of firmness and loss of lycopene and vitamin C,” Fan stated. The study then found cinnamon to be neutral, as it caused no damage at the tested levels. But the most significant finding was that oregano, the third essential oil tested, actually improved produce quality. “The fruit was firmer after a treatment with oregano oil and had a higher vitamin C and lycopene content,” he said. “Oregano not only benefits against bacteria, it can also preserve the quality of tomato fruit.”
The use of essential oils on sprouts, leafy greens, cantaloupe, and other fruits and vegetables was not tested for the study.
“This is the type of research we need to encourage,” says Ron Simon
This is precisely the type of research we should be encouraging, says food poisoning attorney Ron Simon. And though he agrees with Fan, who admits that the commercial application of this study is a long way off, “given the need to find new and effective ways to prevent food poisoning in America, the food industry should be supporting these efforts.” Simon notes that approximately 48 million Americans get food poisoning each year, “and that is simply too high.”