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Food safety advocates and scientists are now saying that packaging greens might contribute to the spread of a lethal strain of E.Coli bacteria, according to an article published last week in the Los Angeles Times.

Several recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses were traced to bagged spinach or lettuce from California. The article quotes Dr. David W.K. Acheson, chief medical officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, who says that the centralized processing of fresh greens can increase the risk of a widespread outbreak of food-related illness.

“If you have a single head of [tainted] lettuce that winds up in someone’s home, makes the family sick, chances are it’ll never get on the radar screen,” Acheson said. “If you take the same lettuce, process it … one head may contaminate multiple bags. Then you’ve got an outbreak.”

Several experts themselves are saying that they have quit eating bagged lettuce after seeing the unsanitary conditions in which the greens are harvested, particularly iceberg lettuce, which has been investigated in the recent Taco John and Taco Bell E.Coli outbreaks that sickened more than 150 customers in the Midwest and on the East Coast in November and December.

This article makes a very interesting point. According to this article the $3-billion packaged produce industry, which was created to improve safety and convenience is now in question.

It’s my opinion that if a process that was considered safe before is not safe any more, it must be reexamined. At Bisnar & Chase we have represented numerous clients who have suffered from food poisoning and continue to talk to many to report illnesses after they’ve eaten at restaurants.

I urge the FDA as well as state and local health officials to impose stringent regulations on produce as well as meat-packaging plants where the problems seem to originate. The local agencies must really step up to the plate when it comes to regulating and monitoring the way food items are processed and brought to market and handled in restaurants.

If you have been a victim of a food-related illness, please give us a call. We will answer your questions, evaluate your situation and discuss your options, all at no cost or obligation.

For more information about how to report a possible food-borne illness, visit the Orange County Health Agency’s website.

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