In a report released this month from the CDC, Leafy Greens were responsible for 23% of the food-borne illnesses reported in the U.S. This trend is not expected to decrease anytime soon; as the U.S. population and global produce market are increasing. The regulating agencies like the FDA and USDA are able to trace the pathogens back to their place/ country of origin more efficiently, but still have a lot of work to do to protect the U.S. food supply. With the Food Safety Modernization Act now in place, the FDA will focus not only on better detection of the food-borne pathogens, but also emerging technologies that are safe for treating the foods we love, while being safer for the environment.
Electronic Cold-Pasteurization (ECP) uses a highly focused beam of electrons (ie; electricity) to kill the pathogens without harming the produce or adding any harmful chemicals or residue. This process does not add any heat and therefore allows the produce to keep the cold-chain intact from “farm-to-fork”.
When you look at the nation-wide and multi-state recalls just in the last year, it will show there is a serious problem that needs to be fixed. These are the food items we eat every day; bagged lettuce, spinach, cantaloupes, tomatoes, papayas, etc. All of these have had massive pathogen recalls recently involving illnesses, hospitalizations, and even deaths. Internationally, the IAEA ( www.iaea.org ) is working on implementing technologies like ECP to make the global food supply safer, but also add the side benefit of increased shelf-life. What would you pay extra to know your strawberry would last two to three weeks longer before it started to mold?