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By DALE McFEATTERS
September is National Food Safety Education Month ("Don’t compromise — Clean and sanitize"), but the food people probably would have been happier to have the issue publicized by something other than an E. coli outbreak linked to tainted spinach.
Food poisoning linked to fresh vegetables is not terribly uncommon. There have been 19 outbreaks due to tainted spinach and lettuce in the United States since 1995, and in 2003 E. coli-infected spinach killed two people.
The current outbreak has killed one person and sickened over 100 others, and the Food and Drug Administration is advising stores not to sell and consumers not to buy fresh spinach. Spinach is safe if cooked properly, but simply washing it won’t remove the bacteria.
The FDA traced the outbreak to California, where one possibility being investigated is that the spinach may have been contaminated by polluted flood or irrigation water.
Such is the modern food distribution network that spinach-linked E. coli cases have turned up in 19 states. For satisfying evidence that the government really is on the case, try the FDA’s Web site — http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/spinach.html.
As for the most famous promoter of spinach, Popeye the Sailor is safe. He ate only the canned variety.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)