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Amid increasing outbreaks of foodborne illness tied to produce, the government said it will allow growers to begin treating fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce with irradiation, to kill any present E. coli and other dangerous germs.
It is the first time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed any produce to be irradiated at levels needed to protect against pathogens. The agency said it determined that modern irradiation techniques can kill food-poisoning germs without compromising the safety or nutrient value of raw spinach and lettuce.
The FDA also is reportedly assessing the possible use of irradiation on other types of produce.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said while the process "may be safe and effective in treating some pathogens, it is not-and should not be mistaken for-a silver bullet. CSPI has urged FDA to adopt a series of preventive measures starting at the farm that could control foodborne pathogens.