Is that fresh produce really safe?

The recent scare over e.coli in romaine lettuce had many consumers concerned about just how healthy their salads and other fresh produce might be. Many people became ill and two people died after consuming the infected lettuce.

The truth is, many e.coli bacteria strains are a natural occurrence in a healthy human intestinal tract, as well as in many animals’ intestines, and most strains are harmless. Humans become ill when they come in contact with pathogenic e.coli, usually while consuming it as part of a food product. Pathogenic e.coli causes intestinal distress, including vomiting and diarrhea, and can lead to death.

Food safety starts in the field for produce such as lettuce. Animals may roam through the plants, searching for food for themselves. In the process, they may leave their feces to contaminate the produce. Incidents of spinach and strawberries causing severe illness in humans have been linked directly to animal contamination in the field.

The potential for pathogenic e.coli can also occur in the processing stage for fresh produce. Water used to wash the plants prior to packaging may not be clean. Likewise, the machinery used to chop the lettuce and other types of leafy produce may have lingering bacteria on it.

More produce is being sold in ready-to-eat packaging, as a convenience for busy consumers who are also becoming more health conscious. Most of these consumers expect that the produce within these packages is safe to eat, without the need for further washing or preparation. If any of the cleanliness and food safety steps have been missed along the way, this expectation could lead to severe consequences.

For more information about the food safety issues involved in fresh produce, the romaine lettuce scare, and other issues around e.coli and food poisoning, contact the experts at Ron Simon & Associates, at 1-888-335-4901.