Salmonella is one of the microorganisms responsible for food poisoning in summer, since it can be ingested through some foods, such as leafy vegetables, if they are not washed properly.
However, a University of Delaware research carried out by plant biologist Harsh Bais and colleagues has shown that thorough washing of food may not eliminate the presence of Salmonella in vegetables, as some strains of this bacterium appear to have developed a method to “sneak” into the green leaves of the plants, hiding between the stomata (small holes that open and close naturally to regulate their temperature) with a maneuver similar to that of the legendary Trojan horse.
This finding may have major implications in the field of food safety in the future, both when growing certain foods on farms and when they are processed, sold and consumed.
According to the same researchers, it would be a strange case of a human pathogen behaving like the pathogens that infect plants. Also, as plants are improved to increase the yield in exchange for reducing their immune potential, and when they are grown too close to livestock, the risk of infection by consuming them clearly increases.
To all this we must add the problem that, even with chemical washing and treatments, it is not possible to clean bacteria that have already entered the leaves of plants. In these cases, it is much easier for infections to spread by water or by human contact itself.
Still, the researchers say that there have been clear improvements in biological and safety controls in both irrigation and cleaning systems, which in turn can be adapted to findings like this. The biggest problems would affect those products that are not processed or subjected to food safety procedures, which could continue to harbor and transmit food infections.