CHICAGO, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. food safety expert says the days when beef was the primary source of food-borne illnesses are gone -- now fresh produce is the chief villain.
"Produce is where much of the action has occurred," said Michael Doyle, a food safety expert with the Institute of Food Technologists and director of the University of Georgia Center for Food Safety.
Speaking Tuesday in Chicago during the IFT's annual meeting, Doyle noted between 1972 and 1997 there were 190 outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fresh U.S. produce. During the five years that followed, the number jumped to 249 and included lettuce, melons and tomatoes.
Doyle said problems occur when fresh produce is cut, exposing more surface area to harmful bacteria. Also, leaking nutrients can interfere with or neutralize disinfectants such as chlorinated water, and finally, if produce isn't properly refrigerated, bacteria are more likely to grow.
"This is where I think there's going to have to be more emphasis," Doyle said. "We really don't have a fully effective way to treat fresh cut fruits and vegetables."
The three-day IFT meeting and exposition ended Wednesday.