In America leafy greens are respon­sible for over a fifth of all food-​​borne ill­nesses (more than any other food), despite pro­cessing that often involves nasty chem­i­cals and unpop­ular irra­di­a­tion treat­ments. Dr Demokritou believes elec­tro­spraying could be used from farm to fork to reduce pathogens like E.coli, sal­mo­nella and lis­teria, as well as yeasts and fungi that cause food to spoil.

Thomas Web­ster, director of the Nanomed­i­cine Lab­o­ra­tory at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in Boston, is impressed with the pre­lim­i­nary results but says the main con­cern is tox­i­city. “You have to do a good job looking at these mate­rials and not just in the lungs,” he says. Wider envi­ron­mental effects have to be con­sid­ered, and whether they kill friendly bacteria.

The researchers are now plan­ning fur­ther safety tests and will also exper­i­ment to see if elec­tro­sprayed nanopar­ti­cles can be effec­tive against viruses like influenza. Most nanopar­ti­cles might still be too toxic to use against bac­teria within the body, but if they can reduce the chance of catching an infec­tion in the first place, that is nothing to be sneezed at.

Read the article at The Economist →