Friday, May 18, 2007
Washing off the E. Coli not so easy
As part of my investigation of food safety for this weekend's special, I really wanted to look into this whole idea of "triple washing" spinach. What does that really mean and is it effective? In order to best investigate this, we decided to do our own independent scientific testing. We actually took some E. coli 0157:h7 (the bad stuff) and placed it on a few spinach leaves.
Now, keep in mind, it takes only about 100 organisms to make you sick, even fewer if you're young, old or already ill. We took carefully measured samples of spinach leaves, "inoculated" them with E. coli 0157 and then tried to wash off the dangerous bacteria. Not washing the spinach at all left around 12,000 bacterial colonies, which could include as many as 24,000 microorganisms. (Watch: We test different washing techniques against E. Coli)
Now, with tap water, which is what most people probably use, the number of organisms was reduced to about 3,700. A vigorous wash with tap water left 2,900.
The commercial wash left around 6,000 organisms, even worse than tap water alone.
Chlorine plus the commercial wash left around 2,300.
But remember, any of these amounts will make you sick.
So, clearly washing the produce alone at home isn't enough, and the commercial washes during the packaging don't seem to be adequate either. In my CNN Special Investigations Unit Danger: Poisoned Food hour this weekend (8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday), you will see that we came up some other alternatives. But, I am eager to hear what you do to clean your fruits and vegetables. What do you think would work to make our produce safer?
Editor's Note: Please include your name, city and state when responding.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
PREVIOUS POSTS• A face behind the spinach scare
• Are women responsible for obesity among children?
• Bono takes on the world's toughest issues
• Cultural barriers to mental health
• Fit Buddies update
• For Mother's Day, focus on the heart
• Clinton gets people to care about AIDS
• TV time hurting your kids?
• Riding scared
• Fit Buddies update