Green salads: Beware of contaminated ready-to-eat vegetables, they cause gastro, typhoid and intestinal bleeding
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 31: Green salads are not always healthy, and may cause severe healthcomplications if proper standards are not maintained. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, which comes out with the "food book", warns that greensalads have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals and a variety of harmful bacteriathat cause diseases ranging from typhoid to intestinal bleeding and gastroenteritis. The problemgets worse if natural manure like cattle dung or polluted water is used for leafy vegetables, whichhave a tendency to absorb harmful elements. The green salad, which many consider to be healthy for its ability to prevent cancer, canbe contaminated with human faeces if polluted water is used in the orchards. If naturalmanure like cow or buffalo dung is used, the final product can be contaminated with animal faeces. If a foodis contaminated with faeces, whether human or animal, it carries the risk of bacterial,viral, helminth and protozoan infections. Health experts point out that if a hotel does not serve properly cleaned and washed greensalad, it poses the risk of infectious diseases. "People with weak immune system are at risk. Many hotelsdo not observe strict cleanliness regime when it comes to serving green salads. Certain leafy vegetableslike lettuce, spinach, pudina and spring onion have the tendency to take in dangerous elements. Theystay in the plant body and pass on to human beings when consumed," says Dr P Ramachandra Murthy,expert in internal medicine. According to Codex, a body under Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, "international and national concerns have grown in response to recent outbreaks andillnesses related to fresh leafy vegetables. A broad array of microbial pathogens have been associated withthese products as reported in international outbreak data". Doctors have found enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Campylobacterspecies,Shigella species, Hepatitis A virus, Norovirus, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Cryptosporidiumparvum, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Listeria monocytogenes thriving on green salads. "One has to be extra careful about consuming ready-to-eat greens as no cooking isinvolved. Cooked vegetables carry almost no risk of diseases as the harmful agents are killed duringcooking. Green salads and vegetable salads carry the risk of spreading infection," cautions senior physician DrMA Azeem. Infectious diseases expert Dr Suneetha Narreddy says the impact of these infections canbe as simple a self limiting acute gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) to a severeinfection involving multiple organs and can potentially be fatal. “Ready to eatvegetables and greens should have potable water during harvest, picking and processing.Processing area should be restricted to the essential people who are trained in thehandling of perishable foods. Salads and green leafy vegetables can be disinfected byspraying them with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide,” she adds. While enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli cause intestinal bleeding and gastroenteritis,Salmonella species cause typhoid and paratyphoid. Hepatitis A virus is known to cause severe liverproblems including jaundice. Norovirus is the main culprit responsible for non-bacterialgastroenteritis.