E.coli, salmonella target ripening fruits

Food poisoning bugs E. coli and salmonella could be especially targeting ripening fruits and vegetables such as melons, jalapenos and serrano peppers, basil, lettuce, horseradish sprouts and tomatoes, says a study.

Researchers from Imperial College, London, are looking at how they latch onto fruits and vegetables and contaminate them.

“Bacteria (salmonella strains) that attach to ripe tomatoes produce an extensive network of filaments, which is not seen when they attach to the surface of unripe tomatoes,” said Gad Frankel, professor at Imperial College, who led the study.

This is just one example of the subtle interplay between food-poisoning microbes and the fresh produce they contaminate, explained Frankel, according to a university statement.

“Apart from salmonella, strains of E. coli are also particularly devious in the way they interact with plant surfaces. They have hair-like appendages and flagella they can use as hooks to successfully secure themselves onto things like salad leaves,” said Frankel.

“By working out the reasons behind sporadic outbreaks of infections, we can control these better and help maintain consumer confidence,” concluded Frankel.

These findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Dublin this week.

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