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NASA Helps Wipe Away Worries About Germs
Voss in space Fresh fruits and vegetables have been in demand by orbiting astronauts since the early days of the space shuttle. But fresh produce can create a queasy bouquet in a closed space environment as it ages past its prime.

NASA has helped develop a product that thoroughly cleanses fruits and vegetables being sent into space, helping to increase their shelf life. Meanwhile, this product is ripe for the picking for consumers on Earth.

Image at right: Astronaut James Voss, Expedition Two flight engineer, is deciding between two colors of apples as he takes a break for a snack in the Zvezda Service Module on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

NASA teamed with Microcide, Inc., of Troy, Michigan, to develop a nontoxic, biodegradable, microbicidal product to disinfect fresh fruit and vegetables for Space Shuttle crews. The product -- PRO-SAN -- is safe, stable and biodegradable for use in space. To offset the challenges of zero gravity, NASA and Microcide created the powder concentrate as a water-soluble package. Once dropped in water, the packet dissolves and creates a ready-to-use sanitizer.

Produce The sanitizer is also available on Earth to keep produce safe from harmful foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria, cholera, shigella, staphylococcus and streptococcus. It has the power to kill 100 million bacteria in 30 seconds, with 99.999-percent efficiency, according to tests. The treated fruits and vegetables maintain their original taste and flavor, and even their natural colors are enhanced -- all without leaving behind an unwanted film or residue.

Image at right: PRO-SAN sanitizing products offer safety from harmful foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria, cholera, shigella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Image credit: Microcide, Inc.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, the sanitizer can be used on counter tops, cutting boards, dishes, utensils, forks, knives and sinks. This makes it ideal for use in hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, dormitories, restaurants and offices.

As an added bonus, the sanitizer lacks volatile organic compounds, so it doesn't pollute the air in homes and kitchens. Since these same chemicals can be a major contributing factor to ozone pollution, NASA's solution for keeping veggies "cleaner and greener" may also be a "green" solution for the environment.

Read the entire article in Spinoff 2005. + View PDF, 6.0 MB

PRO-SAN® is a registered trademark of Microcide, Inc.