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Contaminated spinach: What would Popeye do?

The warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration says that bagged spinach is likely the cause of an outbreak of E. coli infections, strikes fear in the hearts of many parents.

Spinach is the poster child of healthy eating — replete with vitamins, minerals, possibly healthful antioxidants such as beta-carotene — it has long been a food that parents lovingly urge on reluctant children. Because diets with ample amounts of fruits and vegetables are associated with better health, consumers have been looking for ways to incorporate them more frequently and conveniently into their diets.

Ruth Kava of the American Council on Science and Health reports that producers of fresh produce have responded by making it easier for busy consumers to get their fruits and veggies in as convenient a way as possible. Now, one can find pre-cut fruits and salad fixings in virtually any large grocery store in the country. Although these items are supposedly washed and ready for consumption when purchased, sometimes accidents occur.

A couple of years ago, some pre-washed, bagged organic lettuce was found to be contaminated with E. coli — probably because of the use of manure-contaminated water when it was washed. Now, we have outbreaks of E. coli infections in eight states, according to the CDC, apparently stemming from consumption of bagged fresh spinach.

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