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New patents to disinfect avocados and other Mexican produce

A patent registration is pending at the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property for intervention recipes that might successfully disinfect avocados, mangos, strawberries, chilis, tomatoes and coriander.

If successful, once the intervention mixes reach the market Mexico would be able to keep much of its fresh produce from landing on the Import Alert list maintained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mexico frequently finds the food it is exporting to the United States on the Import Alert list once it crosses the international border. Mexico begins 2018 with 71 food products on the FDA Import Alert List, many for produce like cantaloupes, dried peppers and green onions.

Concern over Mexico’s large avocado crop, however, kicked started the new research by the Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo (UAEH). Mexico growers produce 30 percent of the world’s avocados — more than 1.52 million tons per season — and most are for export.

Javier Castro Rosas and other UAEH researchers have been working on the problem for years, first studying the antimicrobial nature of the hibiscus flower to reduce strains of salmonella, typhoid and E. coli in avocados.

In later research, the UAEH team tried adding commercial solutions of colloidal silver or chlorine. That did reduce some of the bacteria, but not enough. Next they mixed recipes using acetic acids from vinegar, citric acids from lime, and other substances of natural origins that their patent claims eliminate all bacteria on avocados.

Their mixes also control bacteria on other products exported to the U.S.

An FDA Import Alerts with a Detention without Physical Examination order are costly for exporters. Food products that land on that list cannot enter the U.S. until they’ve been sampled and tested by a qualified independent laboratory.

If the independent lab finds an illegal residue or contaminant on the product, FDA will refuse to allow it into the U.S. The product must be sent on to another country or destroyed. And every shipment from exporters who make the Import Alert list must go through the same process.

If new shipments are clean the exporter’s products are allowed to enter the U.S. Getting off the list requires five clean deliveries in a row. The lab protocols are strict.

Fresh Mexican produce often makes Americans sick before an Import Alert is issued.  Last year, maradol papayas from Mexico sickened more than 250 people in four separate outbreaks, resulting in two deaths and 79 hospitalizations. About half of the U.S. states were involved in at least one of the four outbreaks.

Also in 2017, imported fresh produce from Mexico was named as the likely cause of  1,065 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in the U.S.  Fresh basil, cilantro, mesclun lettuce, raspberries and snow peas transported the parasite caused past outbreaks in the U.S., but the exact cause last season was not found.

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