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Beware of Imported Produce

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SPRING LAKE — Be careful the next time you go to the grocery store. A government study shows imported fruits and vegetables could be dangerous to your health. That's because produce grown in other countries isn't always thoroughly checked the way our inspectors do things.

More than a third of all fresh fruits and 12% of the vegetables we eat come from outside the United States.

"You try and watch what you get and make sure it's fresh," says consumer, Levista Lucas, "but I think this one here is inside the country and real good vegetables. I always come here all the time."

Lucas might be surprised to find out that even the "mom and pop" produce stores carry imports.

"We have cantaloupe and grapes from Chile, kiwi from Chile and peanuts from Mexico," admits produce seller, Calvin Brown. "And we got some squash out of Mexico."

Food safety experts say fruits and vegetables should be grown in a sanitary manner, then shipped, packed and handled appropriately. But, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't have the power to control the distribution and growing of imported fruits and vegetables. Many consumers never know if the produce they're buying is imported.

"To be honest with you, not really, no," says buyer, Steven Grimes. "I do try and buy from local people, so the fresher the better. I really don't think about it."

Iris Morales says she just checks the produce out. If it doesn't appear fresh, she won't buy it.

Some legislators are trying to increase the FDA's authority to require other countries to use safer practices for produce.

There are 81-million cases of foodborne illnesses a year, which result in 9,000 deaths.