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Lettuce Learn to Wash Produce Properly

Tips to keep your fruits and veggies safe and healthy.

Food-Borne Illness

Despite the recent spinach scare, food-borne illnesses are actually on the decline overall, according to Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education in Washington.

"We initiated the 'Fight Bac' campaign 10 years ago to inform consumers how to practice home food safety, and ever since, we have seen a declining incidence of food-borne illness," she says.

That's not to say that food-borne illness is not still a serious problem. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 76 million people get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and as many as 5,000 die from food-borne illness each year.

Those most at risk are "young children, pregnant women, older adults, and anyone with a weakened immune system," such as someone suffering from a chronic illness, says Feist, whose nonprofit group seeks to educate consumers on safe food handling.

While all produce is subject to bacterial contamination, lettuce appears to be especially vulnerable. In response to recurring outbreaks of E. coli linked to lettuce, the FDA earlier this year developed a Lettuce Safety Initiative, which aims to assess industry safety practices and alert consumers quickly in case of a problem. After the recent outbreak, the initiative was expanded to include spinach.

Reviewed on October 05, 2006

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