Food Product's a Wash
Ever since E. coli was found to have hitched a ride on some spinach last week into the digestive tracts of scores of unfortunate people, I've found myself wondering about food wash.
Before we begin, a brief primer on E. coli:
There are hundreds of kinds of this bacterium that is found in the intestines of humans and animals. The kind involved in the outbreak is E. coli O157:H7. It produces toxins and within a couple days of exposure can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and a fever. Healthy adults usually get better within a week. Young children and the elderly, however, can develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and even death.
It's a nasty bug. And besides hamburgers at Jack in the Box, it's turned up in such non-meaty places as juice, alfalfa sprouts, raw milk, and lettuce.
There are a variety of washes for produce on the market such as Procter & Gamble's Fit, Nature Clean Fruit & Vegetable Wash, and CitroBio Food Wash. They are designed mainly to wash away pesticides and not to protect you from salmonella, listeria or E. coli. Fit and Nature Clean don't claim to stop food-borne illnesses either.
CitroBio, however, does.
On its Web site, the Sarasota, Fla.-based company says: "Citrobio Food Wash is all natural and has FDA/GRAS-approved ingredients. ... When used as directed, Citrobio Food Wash is proven effective against food poisoning caused by E.coli, listeria, salmonella and staphylococcus!"
By "FDA/GRAS-approved ingredients," the company means that its ingredients have been deemed by the FDA to be "generally recognized as safe." It even links to a letter from the FDA agreeing with that.
However, the FDA did not approve CitroBio Food Wash's claim that it is effective against bugs that cause food poisoning. In fact, the company can't claim that it "kills" those bacteria.
The company has studies to show it's effective. And it has at least one meat processor, a turkey plant, that uses its products to combat E. coli, according to a fellow who answered the phone at CitroBio headquarters yesterday who said he worked in the plant making the stuff but wouldn't give his name.
The trouble is, with the current E. coli outbreak in fresh spinach, washing won't do you any good. David Acheson, a food safety expert with the agency, said yesterday that it's possible for E. coli to get into the plant. Washing, he said, is effective if the E. coli is on the surface and has been on there only a short time. The longer a plant is contaminated, the harder it is to get off.
Knowing that, you can't be assured that using a product like CitroBio Food Wash would protect you when it really counts.
Have you ever tried a food wash? Would you use one if you knew it worked on E. coli? Post your thoughts here.
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