After an increase in E.Coli cases being linked to salads, more people are reluctant to return to them. Because absolute assurance is impossible, the purchase of salad products saw a slight fall this summer.
However, Andrew Clarke, professor of food science said: “We basically want perfect food, but produce is not sterile,” He added. “We all have a risk of consuming something that doesn’t agree with us. There is no way to keep everything we eat 100 percent risk-free. Some people, who might be more susceptible, may get sick.”
Most food poisoning is the result of toxins produced by the bacteria and/or quantity of bacteria contained in the food. The bacteria may multiply from one to millions depending on the moisture levels, warmth, time, and type of food. The greater the number of bacteria, the higher the chances of becoming ill. According to the Food Standards Agency, the most common bacteria include Campylobacter, E.Coli, and salmonella. They estimate that up to 5.5 million people are affected by food poisoning every year. Although, very few actually seek medical treatment. Approximately, 100,000 cases per year are analysed to identify the cause of the illness.
Clarke believes consumers may have an unrealistic impression of how food should be presented. It is not possible to completely sterilise all food. He said: “Contamination could happen 1,000 miles away because someone didn’t wash his or her hands. A home isn’t a sterile environment either, so something can happen to contaminate produce in your own home. Hopefully, if you are healthy whatever contamination that might be present will not harm you.”
“Unless you use scalding hot water, you don’t effectively kill the bacteria when rinsing produce,” Clarke continued. “I don’t think using soap is a good idea because you don’t want to start consuming traces of soap. Anytime you wash the surface of produce, you can still miss bacteria that are microscopically embedded because it isn’t always on the surface. It’s like a pothole in the road. Someone could scrub the street with soap and water and rinse, but the material that fills the pothole is still there.”
Common sense can often be the best indicator of a food’s freshness. But the demand for food perfection has obscured some people’s ability to make this judgement.
Clarke advises: “If it looks bad, smells bad, tastes bad, don’t eat it! It’s not worth giving to the dog either unless you want to end up taking the dog to the vet.”.