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Are E. coli vaccines the answer?

A vaccine is being produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that is designed to prevent E. coli infection in humans, according to the New York Times. A vaccine is also being produced by Bionishe, a Canadian company, that is designed to reduce the number of E. coli bacteria shed in cattle feces.

Although vaccines produced by NIH and Bioniche may prove effective in their purposes, it may prove to be cost-prohibitive for the general public and the meat industry to adopt widespread use of either vaccine. Beyond that, experts in the food safety field are skeptical about whether vaccines are the most effective solution to the problem of E. coli contamination. And bacteriophages, which are an alternative to vaccines, are not touted as the answer by food safety experts, either.

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have combined their efforts to develop a fresh produce wash – termed FIT – that is more effective in killing E. coli and other pathogenic contamination on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Currently most produce is washed in a chlorine source, either from bleach or from chlorine dioxide. However, these chemical compounds quickly deactivate and become ineffective in very dirty water, such as a potato or spinach flume. FIT’s commercial produce wash helps overcome that problem when washing fresh cut and other processed produce. The ingredients in FIT, specifically its natural surfactants, act as "wetting agents" which are designed to lift off and kill the pathogens even in very dirty water. FIT is able to get into "nooks and crannies" that other washing systems may not and continues to keep killing bacteria via its patented surfactant technology.

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