The idea of pasteurizing fruit sounds odd, but Bassam Annous, a microbiologist at the USDA’s food safety technologies research unit in Wyndmoor, Pa., said his experiments have shown dramatic reductions in levels of salmonella infections on cantaloupes that have been pasteurized.
He said the process wouldn’t work with leafy vegetables or apples because it causes lettuce to wilt and apples to turn brown, but he said there’s no reason it couldn’t be used for citrus fruits, avocados and perhaps tomatoes.
"If the rind is thick, the flesh is not affected," he said.
The CDC estimates there about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis in the United States each year, and about 600 deaths. Salmonella infection is also linked to development later in life of chronic arthritis.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the FDA should require farmers to restrict the use of manure to times and products where it poses no risk. In addition, packers and shippers should mark packaging to ensure easy trace-back when fruits and vegetables are implicated in an outbreak, she said.