The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is inviting tenders for research into how pathogens can become internalised within fresh produce, and how to prevent this.
"Current methods for washing and decontaminating produce, including commercial washing systems, cannot guarantee that pathogens, if present, will be removed," the FSA said on its invitation to tender.
It has identified four areas for research that proposals should address:
- Survival of pathogens on soiled root vegetables from harvest to retail;
- Internalisation of pathogens in salad plants;
- Factors affecting the attachment of bacteria to plant tissue, and mechanisms for detaching them;
- Use of treatments to prevent the growth of pathogens on sprouted seeds.
"Contamination is usually associated with soil or confined to the surface of vegetables and fruit. However, new evidence suggests that pathogens can be internalised or transferred into the tissues of certain plants," it pointed out.
The FSA added that it welcomed consortium bids including industrial partnerships. The closing date is 25 September 2013.