Fruit and vegetables are responsible for 46 per cent of food poisoning cases, recent research shows.

The study by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that leafy vegetables, namely lettuce and spinach, are the worst offenders.

It also showed that meat and poultry are responsible for 22 per cent of food poisoning cases.

The study found that every year one in six people in the U.S. fall ill with food poisoning – about nine million people.

The majority of cases of foodborne illness caused by leafy vegetables are caused by pre-cut greens which are bought in plastic bags.

The reason for this is that these products tend to be eaten raw. In contrast, the bugs in meat and poultry that many people would expect to be the cause of most cases of food poisoning, are usually killed during cooking.

Dr Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Centre for Food Safety explained to Modern Farmer that lettuce is particularly dangerous as harmful bacteria can form within the plant tissue.

This means that when the lettuce is washed, the bacteria will not be washed away.

He added that leafy greens can cause E.Coli, salmonella, and listeria.

These bugs tend to come from animals which carry them in their intestines.

If the animals’ manure gets into soil or water, it can contaminate vegetables.

Salmonella is especially likely to be transmitted in this way as manure can be blown around by the wind when it dries out, and salmonella is known to be tolerant to drying.

In extreme cases, contaminated bagged salad can cause fatal kidney failure, according to Dr Doyle.

Dr Doyle says that the only way to prevent lettuce-related food poisoning is to ensure that farmers are doing something to kill bacteria in the field, as soon as the leaves are picked.

He believes that farmers should be using disinfectants to achieve this – he says that currently they typically use chlorine but that this is not very effective at killing bacteria.

However, Dr Doyle accepts that the odds are in the consumers favour as millions of bags of salad are sold every year and the number of food poisoning cases is small.

This data is supported by a recent study from the Food Standards Agency which showed that there are 120,000 extra cases of food-related illness during a British summer.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, a microbiologist, believes this is not due to undercooked meat so much as poor hand, surface, and utensil hygiene when people are cooking outside.

source:  dailymail UK