Conventional wisdom holds that harmful bacteria on fruits and vegetables are the remnants of contamination skulking on the exterior of the plants — easily washed away by conventional surface sterilization techniques.
But University of Florida microbiology experts believe the recent rash of spinach-related E. coli infections may be linked to swarms of the pathogen lurking inside the leafy greens.
“When I was a graduate student, we were taught that the insides of plants were sterile,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. “…but assuming E. coli is getting into the plant — yes, this will be a big problem to address.”
The problem, UF researchers say, would be twofold. The first is the question of how to keep dangerous bacteria out of water and soil in the first place. The second is how to eliminate a pathogen if it does infiltrate crops. [story]