EHEC: eliminating pathogens from food
Pathogenic EHEC bacteria have recently caused widespread illness in Germany and Europe and this has created huge uncertainty for consumers. The latest reports point the ﬁnger at the seeds of bean shoots as possibly being the source of the EHEC bacteria contamination.
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP in Dresden have developed a process for effectively and efﬁciently freeing seeds of pathogens such as bacteria and fungi. Regardless of what source is eventually found, recent weeks have brought home the severe consequences of contaminated food and highlighted the importance of effective treatment of seeds and efﬁcient sterilization of foods.
The Fraunhofer Institute for has for some years had a proven technology for effectively rendering pathogens such as bacteria and fungi on seeds harmless. The process utilizes low-energy electrons to kill germs. The special conﬁguration of the equipment means that the seeds are separated and that the electrons can bombard the seeds from all sides. The electrons only act on and in the seed coat,
and the ability of the seeds to germinate and the DNA of the seeds are not adversely affected.
A special quality monitoring system safeguards and manages the quality of the seed treatment, ensuring the maximum effect for optimum plant tolerance. As the treatment involves solely a physical process, the harmful organisms cannot develop resistance as can occur when antibiotics are used. In addition, there is no use of chemicals and so the environment and the health of users are not impacted.