Researchers zap noro on fresh lettuce with blast of ionized gas

When you put one of the toughest bugs on the planet in a match-up with some of the most delicate fresh foods, it doesn’t take a Vegas mathematician to figure the odds are against the food making it through a sterilization process undamaged.

Among the most delicate and most prone to carry foodborne illnesses are leafy greens. Among the most difficult to kill bugs is norovirus. But a microbiologist at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul is working on a solution.

As it turns out, norovirus, aka the stomach bug or the cruise ship blues, can’t stand up to cold plasma treatment and researcher Hamada Aboubakr has shown that at least one leafy green can survive the sterilization process with no apparent damage.

Aboubakr and colleagues exposed romaine lettuce leaves to a cold plasma treatment after they had been intentionally contaminated with norovirus. The same treatment was also used on stainless steel surfaces similar to those found in salad packing plants.

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