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: Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

Related Stories

New material set to change cooling industry

11 hours ago

Refrigeration and air conditioning may become more efficient and environmentally friendly thanks to the patent-pending work of LSU physicists. The team of researchers led by LSU Physics Professor Shane Stadler ...

Hair today, communication trigger tomorrow

12 hours ago

Beauty technology? Don't be concerned if at first you missed the mark. "Beauty technology" does not refer to how ingredients are processed and packaged on shampoo and soap assembly lines. Katia Vega is a ...

Mass beaching fuels 'unscientific' Japan quake fears

12 hours ago

The mass beaching of more than 150 melon-headed whales on Japan's shores has fuelled fears of a repeat of a seemingly unrelated event in the country—the devastating 2011 undersea earthquake that killed ...

Recommended for you

Telling the time of day by color

19 hours ago

Research by scientists at The University of Manchester has revealed that the colour of light has a major impact on how the brain clock measures time of day and on how the animals' physiology and behavior adjust accordingly. ...

Roadkill hot spots identified in California

Apr 17, 2015

An interactive map shows how California's state highway system is strewn with roadkill "hot spots," which are identified in a newly released report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Da ...

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.