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Traditional Korean kitchenware turns out to ward off food poisoning

According to Korean scientists, brass can be used to make shellfish a safer choice at the dinner table. “We showed that copper ions diffuse out from a brass plate into a fish tank filled with seawater, and within 40 hours the copper killed 99.99% of the Vibrio food poisoning bacteria contaminating the living fish and shellfish,” says Dr Jeong-Weon Huh from the Department of Health Research at the Gyeonggi-do Institute of Health and Environment.

shellfish Traditional Korean kitchenware turns out to ward off food poisoning

When a brass plate is placed in a tank filled with seawater, copper ions will diffuse out from it and be absorbed by the Vibrio bacteria, causing them to die and fall of infested fish and shellfish. The copper will not only kill bacteria present on the outside of the animal, it will also get into the internal organs and kill Vibrio bacteria there. The dead bacteria will then be flushed out of the animal and sink to the bottom of the tank.

So, is this a safe method? According to Dr Huh¸ any remaining copper ions in the saltwater will be absorbed by sand and polyester filters and leave fish and shellfish suitable for consumption. “By being able to remove the copper ions, we can prevent people from consuming excess copper themselves, but let them safely enjoy any kind of fish, either raw or cooked.”

Raw fish and shellfish forms a major part of traditional Korean cuisine and finding a way of reducing the risk of food poisoning is high on the agenda for the Gyeonggi-do Institute of Health and Environment. Between 2003 and 2006, roughly 12 percent of food poisoning cases in Korea were caused by Vibrio bacteria. According to Korean tradition, the safest way to serve food is in a so called bangzza bowl – a bowl made from a 78% copper and 22% tin mixture. The researchers have now managed to show that this metal mixture emits enough copper ions to kill off nasty microbes like Vibrio bacteria. Using this traditional type of kitchenware might be a feasible way to prevent serious gastrointestinal infections in situations when it is difficult to uphold a high level of hygiene and sanitation.

Dr Jeong-Weon Huh revealed his findings at the Society for General Microbiology’s autumn meeting at Trinity College, Dublin.

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