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Dangerous Dining Still All Too Common

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A risky food that's getting a lot of attention at this meeting is sprouts. One California survey of sprout food poisoning outbreaks concludes there's no reliable way to protect the public from the bacteria that can get on sprouts -- usually Salmonella or E. coli. Not that sprout farmers aren't trying. Many now pretreat sprout seeds with an antibacterial solution. But a Wisconsin study found an outbreak occurred even with this prevention method. Another study from Oregon suggested pretreatment of seeds might help, but perhaps not much.

The president of the International Sprout Growers Association says while there may have been problems with sprouts, the industry isn't getting credit for trying to make its product safe. "If we get through this, all the negativity, we're going to start educating the public about how great sprouts are for you," says Al Sullivan. "It's been real tough for the sprout industry. Somebody needs to look at what we've done and give us a pat on the back. I assure you, we're doing everything we possibly can to bring closure to this problem." Sullivan says that with the increased use of seed disinfectant and microbiological testing, he sees a day when sprouts will be the safest item in the produce section.

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