E. coli outbreak in Europe: Was it preventable?

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Media coverage of the disastrous E. coli outbreak in Europe has become a source of both anxiety and relief for Americans: In Germany, nearly 3,000 have fallen ill thus far — 700 with acute kidney failure — and 27 have died, but there’s been no sign that this highly virulent form of E. coli has caused any illness in the U.S.

However, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, the European epidemic is something of a wake-up call. While he emphasizes that Europe’s current outbreak should not cause any American to hesitate in the produce section, he does observe that food irradiation needs to be taken more seriously. “If food irradiation were more widely used, both here and in Europe,” he says, I believe that the risk of contamination would decline.” For more on food irradiation, see ACSH's 2007 publication.