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Experts: No food will be completely safe

MILWAUKEE -- Avoid foreign produce. Wash and peel your fruit. Keep it refrigerated.

But none of these common tips would have guaranteed your safety from the deadliest food outbreak in a decade, involving cantaloupes from Colorado.

Whether it's sprouts or spinach, turkey or hamburger; whether the government doubled, tripled or quadrupled inspections, no food will ever be completely free of risk. A few foods have become so risky that children, pregnant women and the elderly might best avoid them altogether until growers and the government figure out how to make them safer, some food experts say.

An unappetizing fact: Although the current outbreak has been tied to just one farm in Colorado, it's at least the 19th outbreak involving cantaloupes since 1984. It's also the first one caused by listeria, a germ that actually likes to be in the refrigerator and thrives in this fruit.

Listeria also prompted a California farm to recall bags of chopped romaine lettuce yesterday because of possible contamination, though no illnesses have been reported. The greens from Salinas-based True Leaf Farms went to Oregon and possibly Washington and Idaho.

As for cantaloupes, if no one knows where it was grown, "I would not buy it at all," said Chris Waldrop of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America.

Said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has confirmed 13 deaths and 72 illnesses in the outbreak so far: "When in doubt, throw it out." -- AP

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