September 3, 2008

Rise in Sales of Pre-Packed Salads Prompts Food Poisoning Warning

The increased uptake in salads in particular, but also in fruit and vegetables, is likely to be reflected in a future rise in food poisoning, they said.They also warned that while scientists had a role to play in developing technology to protect food from contamination, consumers should be aware of the risks.The comments were made before food contamination was discussed at a conference in Aberdeen today.Led by Imperial College London, the research details how salmonella bacteria are able to contaminate salads and vegetables.Prof Gadi Frankel, from Imperial College, said a greater understanding of how salads are contaminated is important because cases of food poisoning caused by salads are "likely to rise in the future".He said there had been recent outbreaks that could specifically be related to pre-packed salads, including a salmonella outbreak in the UK last year traced to imported basil and an E.coli outbreak in America in 2006 traced to prepacked baby spinach.Prof Frankel said: "In their efforts to eat healthily, people are eating more salad products, choosing to buy organic brands and preferring the ease of 'pre-washed' bagged salads from supermarkets, than ever before."All of these factors, together with the globalisation of the food market, mean that cases of salmonella and E.coli poisoning caused by salads are likely to rise in the future."This is why it's important to get a head start with understanding how contamination occurs now."He said that a label stating food was pre-washed did not necessarily mean it was safe to eat and, although the risk of poisoning remained low, consumers should make "informed decisions"."There are many kinds of salad bags being marketed as washed and ready-to-eat," he said. "It is about individual choice but people should be aware of the risks so they can make informed decisions about whether they want to wash their food or not."Food poisoning from salmonella and E.coli is commonly associated with eating contaminated bovine or chicken products.The germs live in the guts of cows and egg-ducts of chickens, and contamination of meat can occur during slaughtering but recent outbreaks of food poisoning highlight the dangers associated with contaminated salad or vegetables.The findings are being presented at the Food Micro 2008 conference in Aberdeen.The conference, which began on Monday at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre and runs until tomorrow, brings together 850 delegates from 50 countries.

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