Researchers have improved upon an edible coating for fresh fruits and vegetables by enabling it to kill deadly E. coli bacteria while also providing a flavor-boost to food. Composed of apple puree and oregano oil, which acts as a natural antibacterial agent, the coating shows promise in laboratory studies of becoming a long-lasting, potent alternative to conventional produce washes, according to a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of Lleida in Spain.
The study comes on the heels of the recent deadly E. coli outbreak in spinach and amid growing concern by experts that some produce-cleaning techniques may not be effective in destroying E. coli. The study is scheduled for the Nov. 29 issue of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
"All produce-cleaning methods help to some degree, but our new coatings and films may provide a more concentrated, longer-lasting method for killing bacteria," says Research Leader Tara H. McHugh, Ph.D., a food chemist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Albany, Calif. As the films are made of fruit or vegetable puree, they also provide added health benefits such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, she says.