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Copper could stop spread of new strains of E coli

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
New strains of E coli

Research shows copper surfaces would kill E coli that is a concern to human health from new drug resistant strains.

In light of the new O104:H4 strain of E coli outbreak in Germany, researchers from University of South Hampton suggest using copper in food preparation areas could prevent cross contamination of food from the bacteria that seems to be consistently mutating.

Professor Bill Keevil, Head of the Microbiology Group and Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, explains, "A study looking at copper's efficacy against new strains of E. coli has just been completed. Although it did not specifically look at O104, all the strains investigated have died rapidly on copper."

Cross contamination of food occurs easily

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Cross contamination of uncooked food in preparation and handling areas can easily occur, making it important to find ways to ensure bacteria is not transmitted from food to mouth.

In the study, dry copper killed ten million E coli bacteria in 10 minutes. When the alloy was wet, bacteria would be expected to be destroyed within 45 minutes.

Any type of raw food place on a contaminated surface, or transmitted from the hands and utensils, even sponges, can contaminate food with E coli and other bacteria.

The study suggests deploying copper to food preparation areas would kill E coli and any other bacteria that settles on the surface of the metal. Copper has an inherent antibacterial property that could stop new strains of E coli from contaminating food. Cooking also destroys food borne bacteria.

This page updated May 29, 2013