How do supermarkets try to prevent the sale of tainted fruits and vegetables? The question came to mind following news that produce-related salmonella outbreaks have multiplied and are catching up to chicken as a major culprit in food poisoning incidents.

This just adds to consumer worries about everything from avian flu to E.coli, says Goody Solomon of the Washington Examiner. A good deal of blame falls on today’s lengthy route from farm to table and the resulting frequent handling, especially of the precut and prepackaged.

Expansion of imports adds to the complications. Guilt also falls on improper use of manure on farms, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of CSPI. It is highly risky to use manure when vegetables are grown under or on the soil, she said, but safe when something like tomatoes grows above the soil on a vine.

Partly because of prodding by the FDA, the industry has been working on plans for improving the safety of melons and of all kinds of lettuce and leafy greens. The plans contain recommendations for all stages of distribution from farm to fork – for example, delayed harvest of melons or extra washing are suggested after heavy rains, which increase chances of contamination. The plans also cover research into possible causes of contamination.