Household bleach effectively decontaminates the food preparation surfaces in homes, restaurants and processing plants that are tainted with ricin.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans, which are grown and processed throughout the world to produce castor oil. Although no longer widely used as a laxative, castor oil remains a key raw material in the manufacture of soaps, paints, dyes, inks, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, and other products. Ricin occurs in the waste "mash" left behind after production of castor oil. Because it is so easy to obtain and so toxic, with no antidote, experts regard ricin as one of the most likely bioterror agents.
"This discovery is important because it provides a practical, readily available way to inactivate ricin on food processing equipment in the event of an intentional contamination event," said Lauren Jackson, Ph.D., who reported on the research. "It is the first study to explore ricin decontamination in the presence of food, and it shows that household bleach is effective."
Household bleach turned out to be the most effective anti-ricin agent. Bleach significantly reduced the toxicity of ricin within five minutes, noted Jackson, a research food technologist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Summit-Argo, Ill. Bleach completely eliminated ricin in the "control" samples using just a small amount of bleach. PAA also showed effectiveness, but less so than bleach.