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Cold plasma puts the chill on norovirus

Blast of ionized gas can kill pathogen lurking on fresh food

7:00am, February 10, 2017
a tasty salad

OUT IN THE COLD  A virus perhaps best known for wreaking havoc on the guts of cruise ship passengers has met its match in cold plasma. Researchers are developing a device that uses this fourth state of matter to sterilize contaminated fruits and vegetables.

WASHINGTON — A nasty stomach virus that can linger on fruits and veggies may have met its match in cold plasma.

In experiments, the ionized gas, created by filtering room-temperature air through an electric field, virtually eliminated norovirus from lettuce, researchers reported February 7 at the American Society for Microbiology Biothreats meeting.

 Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, infecting more than 20 million people every year. Sterilizing food with heat is one way to kill the virus, but that approach doesn’t work for fresh produce. Cold plasma could be a way to sterilize fruits and vegetables without damaging them, said Hamada Aboubakr, a food microbiologist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Aboubakr and colleagues used a cold plasma device to blast contaminated romaine lettuce leaves and stainless steel

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