Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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 health  complications if
proper standards are not maintained. 
The Codex Alimentarius Commission, which comes out with the "food book", warns that green salads
have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals and a variety of harmful bacteria that cause
diseases ranging from typhoid to intestinal bleeding and gastroenteritis. The problem gets worse if
natural manure like cattle dung or polluted water is used for leafy vegetables, which have a tendency to
absorb harmful elements.
The green salad, which many consider to be healthy for its ability to prevent cancer, can be contaminated with human faeces if polluted water is used in the orchards. If natural manure like cow or buffalo dung is used, the final product can be contaminated with animal faeces. If a food is 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 green salad, it poses
the risk of infectious diseases. "People with weak immune system are at risk. Many hotels do not observe
strict cleanliness regime when it comes to serving green salads. Certain leafy vegetables like lettuce,
spinach, pudina and spring onion have the tendency to take in dangerous elements. They stay 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 and illnesses related to fresh leafy vegetables. A broad array of microbial pathogens have been associated with these products as reported in international outbreak data".
Doctors have found enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter  species,Shigella species, Hepatitis A virus, Norovirus, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Cryptosporidium parvum,
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Listeria monocytogenes thriving on green salads.

"One has to be extra careful about consuming ready-to-eat greens as no cooking is  involved. Cooked
vegetables carry almost no risk of diseases as the harmful agents are killed during cooking. Green salads
and vegetable salads carry the risk of spreading infection," cautions senior physician Dr MA Azeem.
Infectious diseases expert Dr Suneetha Narreddy says the impact of these infections can be as simple a self limiting acute gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) to a severe infection involving multiple organs and can potentially be fatal.  “Ready to eat vegetables and greens should have potable water during harvest, picking and processing. Processing area should be restricted to the essential people who are trained in the handling of perishable foods. Salads and green leafy vegetables can be disinfected by spraying 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 liver problems including jaundice. Norovirus is the main culprit responsible for non-bacterial gastroenteritis.

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