Copper-bottomed guarantee for safe shellfish in restaurants

Sep 09, 2008

Putting brass where your money is could be a guarantee of safety according to researchers looking at the dangers of eating raw fish and shellfish in seafood restaurants, scientists heard today at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn meeting being held this week at Trinity College, Dublin.

The Asian diet traditionally includes lots of raw fish and shellfish, and diners and restaurateurs are aware of the risks of food poisoning posed by contaminating bacteria. In Korea between 2003 and 2006 around 12% of food poisoning cases were due to a type of bacteria called Vibrio, whose family includes the microbe that causes cholera. Now Korean scientists have come up with a simple and effective way of making sure that shellfish is safe – put a brass plate at the bottom of the fish tank.

"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 Gyeonggi-do Institute of Health and Environment, Republic of Korea.

The copper is absorbed by the bacteria, causing them to die and fall off the gills and skin of the fish. Vibrio are even flushed from the internal organs of the fresh fish, sinking to the bottom of the tank. The remaining copper ions are absorbed from the seawater in the tank by sand and polyester filters, leaving safe, clean fish ready to be eaten by restaurant diners.

"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," says Dr Jeong-Weon Huh.

Koreans have claimed for a long time that food served in a traditional bowl called a bangzza is safer to eat. Now the food researchers have proved the science behind the myth. The 78% copper and 22% tin mixture used to make the traditional bangzza kitchenware allows enough copper ions to escape into the food that pathogenic microbes are rendered harmless.

In countries with many people suffering from poor sanitation and hygiene, where cholera and other Vibrio bacteria are rife, it seems that this traditional cookware may be a lifesaver.

"We highly recommend that brass is used in restaurant fish tanks for consumer's safety. More people will be able to safely enjoy seafood, and the marine dealers will have a stable income," says Dr Jeong-Weon Huh.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

Related Stories

NSA winds down once-secret phone-records collection program

20 hours ago

The National Security Agency has begun winding down its collection and storage of American phone records after the Senate failed to agree on a path forward to change or extend the once-secret program ahead of its expiration ...

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

20 hours ago

The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three ...

Recommended for you

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

9 hours ago

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope ...

Bacterial tenants in fungal quarters

19 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have sequenced the genome of a bacterial symbiont hosted by a mycorrhizal fungus. Analysis of the symbiont's genetic endowment reveals previously unknown ...

Natural enzyme examined as antibiotics alternative

22 hours ago

In 1921, Alexander Fleming discovered the antimicrobial powers of the enzyme lysozyme after observing diminished bacterial growth in a Petri dish where a drop from his runny nose had fallen. The famed Scottish ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fuchikoma
not rated yet Sep 10, 2008
I really don't want to sound racist, but since I've heard other "credible" S.Korean scientists explain how kimchi kills diseases like SARS, or how running an electric fan in a closed room removes all the oxygen, asphixiating the inhabitants (but only if they're Korean, some claim.)

This is a fascinating finding, but I'm going to wait for a little confirmation from the international scientific community before I put any weight behind it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.