Numbers: Deadly
 Produce, From E. Coli to Glass Shards to Apricot Pits

By Mara Grunbaum|Saturday, September 03, 2011

752  Number of Europeans who suffered kidney failure due to a virulent strain of E. coli bacteria that spread across Germany in May. As of early July, the outbreak had infected 3,768 people and killed 44. To check the spread of infection, public-health officials warned consumers away from fresh vegetables; weeks of investigation fingered bean sprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany as the source of the outbreak.

30  Number of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with bean sprouts since 1996. To germinate, alfalfa and soy need heat and humidity—conditions that also support bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children, pregnant women, and the elderly avoid all raw sprouts.

24,000  Pounds of frozen peas, carrots, and other vegetables voluntarily recalled by a Tennessee company last year after consumers found shards of glass in some bags. No injuries were reported. Between 1972 and 1997, the Food and Drug Administration analyzed 190 cases of foreign objects in food and warned that sharp or hard materials can cause “laceration and perforation of tissues of the mouth, tongue, throat, stomach, and intestine.”

1 in 25  Proportion of food-poisoning outbreaks in restaurants that can be traced back to salsa and guacamole, according to a 2010 analysis by the CDC, up from 1 in 66 a decade ago. The rise is probably due to an increase in the dishes’ popularity. CDC epidemiologist Rajal Mody says that the dips create “a perfect storm of risk factors” for contamination: raw produce prepared by dicing, which exposes surfaces where bacteria can take hold, combined into a mixture that is often left unrefrigerated.

41  Number of apricot pits eaten by a 41-year-old woman before she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital for a cyanide antidote. When chewed, each pit can release about 1.5 milligrams of cyanide. A lethal dose for an adult is around 100 milligrams. The pits are sometimes sold as relief for constipation.

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