Scientists tackle tough bacteria

By Tom Lollis

Clemson scientists are looking for ways to protect fresh produce from contamination by Escherichia coli O157:H7.

Each year, E. coli infects approximately 73,000 people in the U.S., causing about 60 deaths. Food scientist Xiuping Jiang is leading research to determine how the microorganism survives and grows in composted materials used to produce leafy greens.

"Our hypothesis is that current composting practices may be insufficient to kill O157:H7, and that re-growth of pathogens may occur in some situations," Jiang said. During the next year she will conduct experiments in the laboratory, in the greenhouse and in field settings to identify processes that are more efficient in eliminating O157:H7 from composted materials.

Collaborating on the project are Geoff Zehnder, organic crops specialist, and Feng Luo, computer scientist. The research is funded by a grant from Fresh Express®, a fresh produce company. Discoveries will be made public to benefit the fresh produce industry and consumers.

For information: Xiuping Jiang, 864-656-6932,