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Combining sanitizers with ultrasound, optimizing oxygen conditions and not reusing washing water can reduce bacterial contamination of lettuce and leafy greens, according to a summary of recent USDA laboratory research.

The findings are published in the July issue of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) science monthly, Agricultural Research.

The research is likely to be of interest to growers, processors and retailers, as an outbreak of a foodborne disease can be extremely costly, as well as potentially fatal for the consumer.

The USDA said that researchers at its Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory (PQSL) in Maryland have been focusing on ways to keep salads safe at processing plants before and after bagging.

Microbiological safety is a key issue for ready-to-eat prepared vegetable tissues, because they are intended for consumption raw, without further preparation or cooking.

Bacteria can contaminate crop plants in situ during the growth of the plant or during harvesting, handling, processing, distribution or preparation.

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