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FDA approves irradiation of greens to curb E. coli and salmonella food poisoning

Posted on Aug 22, 2008

In an effort to curb outbreaks of food poisoning, the FDA will issue a new regulation today (Friday, August 22, 2008) to allow spinach and lettuce to be irradiated, i.e., subjected to low levels of radiation.  Meat, especially ground beef, has been subjected to irradiation for several years.  Now the FDA says producers of spinach and lettuce can do the same.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that although zapping food with radiation will kill E. coli and other bacteria, it will not kill viruses that increasingly contaminate produce.  A better way to curb produce-related food poisoning outbreaks is to improve efforts to eliminate contamination on the farms that produce our spinach, lettuce and other vegetables.  What is really needed, according to The Center for Science in the Public Interest, is for producers of fresh fruits and vegetables to adopt cleaner production practices so that our produce is never contaminated in the first place.  In a 2006 petition to the FDA, the Center for Science in the Public Interest outlined a series of inexpensive common sense food safety control measures that it believes would greatly reduce or even eliminate food poisoning outbreaks caused by fresh fruits and vegetables.