FDA Okays Irradiating Spinach, Lettuce To Kill Germs

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — Consumers worried about salad safety may soon be able to buy fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce zapped with just enough radiation to kill E. coli and a few other germs.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday will issue a regulation allowing spinach and lettuce sellers to take that extra step, a long-awaited move amid increasing outbreaks from raw produce.

It doesn’t excuse dirty produce, warned Dr. Laura Tarantino, FDA’s chief of food additive safety. Farms and processors still must follow standard rules to keep the greens as clean as possible — and consumers, too, should wash the leaves before eating.

“What this does is give producers and processors one more tool in the toolbox to make these commodities safer and protect public health,” Dr. Tarantino said.

Irradiated meat has been around for years, particularly ground beef that is a favorite hiding spot for E. coli. Spices also can be irradiated.

But the Grocery Manufacturers Association had petitioned the FDA to allow irradiation of fresh produce, too, starting with leafy greens that have sparked numerous recent outbreaks, including E. coli in spinach that in 2006 killed three people and sickened nearly 200.


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