KEEPING OTHER FOODS SAFE: Food processing engineers at Purdue University are eliminating bacteria in packaged foods without the use of chemicals. The method uses a set of coils – generating 15,000 Volts of electricity – placed on either side of the packaging. The jolt separates oxygen and nitrogen molecules inside the sealed packaging, creating a layer of ozone that kills bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli, that have been found to be harmful when ingested. The method also eliminates bacteria that spoil food, increasing shelf-life.
HOW DO E. COLI AND SALMONELLA GET INTO OUR FOOD? E. coli is a type of bacteria that often resides within the intestinal tracks of animals, including people. Many strains are harmless, but strain 0157 causes serious food poisoning. In the intestines, the bacteria help to maintain health by producing vitamin K, and by keeping other species out. When fecal matter, manure, or pieces of the intestines are poorly processed and come into contact with meat or vegetables, the bacteria contained within them can attach themselves to food. Salmonella is also a type of bacteria, capable of causing diarrhea and other potentially severe illnesses. It can be found in water, fecal matter, and the intestines of mammals and birds. The best defense against infection is careful cleaning and cooking of meats and eggs.