Bacteria Threatens Potato Chips

August 04, 2008 08:48 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
A disease spreading through potato crops is causing potato chips to develop zebralike stripes when cooked.

30-Second Summary

“Zebra chip” disease has no known risks to human health, but it’s not doing the potato industry any good. The condition causes potatoes to turn brown and develop stripes, especially when fried into potato chips. Potato growers have recorded millions of dollars in losses from zebra chip because they cannot sell infected potatoes.
The disease has been detected in the United States, Guatemala and New Zealand. Scientists are not sure how it’s spreading, but they believe tiny insects called psyllids are transmitting the bacteria that may be behind the bizarre-looking spuds. Psyllids are light enough to travel in the wind, so it’s possible they may have blown into other countries, The Economist explains.

The problem now is that if zebra chip spreads even farther with no means to stop it from infecting potatoes, “the potato crisp itself could become an endangered species.”

The food industry has endured a difficult year worldwide. The Myanmar cyclone damaged rice crops, a fungus threatened U.S. banana supplies, tomato growers underwent a salmonella scare and honeybee death rates increased.

Headline Links: Researching the zebra chip problem

Background: Looking for a culprit

Reference: Potato chips


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