St. Paul Product Could Change the Way You Prepare Meals

Updated: 05/16/2013 7:21 AM By: Katherine Johnson

A new product, invented right here in Minnesota, boasts to make your fruits and vegetables safer to eat.

Wilde Roast in Minneapolis uses locally grown and organic produce for everything from the artichoke dip to the restaurant's famous homemade gelato. But new research by the Centers for Disease Control pegs produce as the number one cause of food-borne illnesses.

"You've got to keep the public safe," said Wilde Roast owner, Dean Schlaak.

Schlaak is always looking for ways to keep his customers, and kitchen, contamination-free. Researchers at Ecolab claim to have done just that.

"It kind of gets into the nooks and crannies and it's washing out any pesticide residues, any waxes that were applied to the fruit," said principal microbiologist Erin Mertz.

It's call the Antimicrobial Fruit and Vegetable Treatment.  It's designed to help restaurants actually wash produce rather than just rinsing it in water.

"If you really want a food safety process to be effective, it needs to be easy," said Meredith Miller who helped develop the product.

Miller helped develop the product.  She says the treatment reduces 99.9% of E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria on fruits and vegetables in just ninety seconds in the wash.

"The problem with water is that we know that water doesn't remove all of the pathogens that can cause food-borne illnesses," said Miller.

The treatment is the first of it's kind to be both FDA and EPA approved so restaurant owners like Schlaak can focus more on catering and less on contamination.

"You've got people's lives in your hand," said Schlaak.

The treatment is being marketed for restaurants but will also soon be showing up in school and work cafeterias, hotels and even spraying the produce section in grocery stores. 

There is not a similar product for household use yet but researchers say it may not be far behind.

According to the CDC, 3,000 people in the United States die each year from food-borne diseases. 

About 1 in 6 people get sick each year from contaminated food, resulting in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations.

Salmonella infections, alone, account for $365 million in medical costs each year.

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