Washing Produce Won’t Necessarily Get Rid of E. Coli

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)  — Four people recently returned to the U.S. from Germany and now have the potentially deadly E. coli food poisoning that is sweeping across Europe. The outbreak has killed at least 18 people, and sickened close to 2,000.

Dr. Bruce Chassy is a professor at the University of Illinois and specializes in food safety. Chassy said the CDC in Atlanta tracks these types of record outbreaks virtually every week.

He said this particular outbreak is very big and mysterious and that E. Coli is tricky to guard against. Organisms that cause food-borne illness are always with us and contamination potential is all over farms and fields including organic ones.

“Organic food is grown with manure that is composted. If it’s incompletely composted, there could be live pathogens in there,” said Chassy.

KCBS’ Janice Wright Reports:

The potentially harmful manure comes from animals in fields, birds, and frankly, sometimes even humans. You would think that scrubbing those fruits and veggies would be the simple solution, but if the water a crop is grown in, then it’s contaminated with E. coli.

“E. coli is inside the vegetables and can’t be washed off,” said Chassy.

He said the real solutions lay at the growing and production end of the food chain.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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