A new way to clean your greens before making a salad

Published: March 9, 2021 5:35 PM EST
Updated: March 10, 2021 10:25 AM EST

When you dig into a leafy green salad, you obviously expect it to be clean, but bacteria are known to stick around even after washing the veggies. Luckily, there is a new way to clean your greens.

The sounds the bubbles make are at such a high frequency that people or bats can’t hear them; bacteria can’t hide from them either.

“I have a 2-year-old, and we go to farmers markets and stuff, and she just wants to grab it right off the thing,” said Krista Casazza, an associate dean of research at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Casazza says that washing produce before eating it is critical even though you can’t see it and bacteria could be present.

“Most commonly, it’s E. coli, which is bacterial,” Caazza said. “It’s very, very much of a high health hazard if you have some sort of thing that limits your nutritional capacity, your hydration status, or if you have a preexisting condition.”

That’s why Keith Schneider, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida, says growers can look for safer methods.

“There’s a giant pressure from a legal standpoint. They do not want to have any foodborne illnesses, so they are constantly trying to improve their system,” Schneider said.

Timothy Leighton, a professor of ultrasonic and underwater acoustics, believes he has the answer. His device – microscopic bubbles with sound waves – creates tiny scrubbing machines so gentle they can actually extend the shelf life of produce.

“If you damage it, you’re going to shorten the life of the leaf; you’re going to just need a bruised area that will be reinfected,” Leighton said.

He says that because the device doesn’t use chemicals, it can also help avoid creating more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, unless we can put in place the measures to stop them, will be killing more people than cancer, and they’ll cost the world economy more than the current size of the world economy,” Leighton said.

The idea does still come with challenges. “Some things work in the lab that don’t work in industry because of the size and pace,” Schneider said.

Leighton says that he’s partnering with a company to test his device on a bigger scale to see how feasible it is. He adds that his goal is to get his sonic scrubbing bubbles to factories and farms, and eventually into homes.