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Salads you can trust -- safe farm practices get major test

Ever since 2006, when a deadly batch of spinach killed three people and sickened hundreds, U.S. farm producers, packers and others along the distribution line have argued over how best to protect consumers and assure them that leafy greens and tomatoes are safe.

Now, a major, national initiative, led by University of Maryland researchers, may help settle the fight, increase safety and deliver more trustworthy salad fixings. It promises to be one of the most comprehensive studies of fresh produce safety ever conducted.

For example, how far apart do you need to keep a lettuce patch from pigs or other farm animals to prevent bacterial contamination? What kinds of barriers are needed to prevent contaminated water from reaching crops? What kinds of animal-based fertilizers are safe to use?

Already, the agriculture producers are testing for pathogens in produce just before and after harvesting. Also, they making environmental tests - for example, in irrigation waters, in fertilizers and other soil amendments - and sanitary conditions in transport and processing facilities. The researchers will then analyze all this data.
 
 

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