Jews who eat produce from the Palestinian Authority during the shmita year need not fear contracting infectious diseases such as cholera or hepatitis A if they buy it from recognized outlets and wash fruits and vegetables carefully, preferably with detergent, according to the Health and Agriculture ministries. Ministry officials had been asked by The Jerusalem Post about the hygienic status of produce grown in the territories, where untreated sewage water is sometimes used for irrigation. During the shmita year, haredim, who do not accept the heter mechira, in which lands are symbolically sold to non-Jews instead of leaving farms fallow, purchase Badatz-approved produce that may come from Palestinian farms. Agriculture Ministry inspectors sample and test produce from the territories continually every year to ensure that dangerous food does not enter Israel, a ministry spokeswoman told the Post. While there may always be smuggled produce, she said, consumers are protected if they wash fruits and vegetables well and buy them only in supermarkets, greengrocers and supervised outdoor markets. Dr. Paul Slater, the Health Ministry's chief epidemiologist, said: "I don't know of any outbreak of disease linked to Palestinian-grown vegetables since the 1970 cholera outbreak. Hygiene and supervision has improved tremendously since then. In any case, cholera is not a water-borne disease. I have never seen an outbreak of hepatitis A in Israel that has been traced to food." The Agriculture Ministry and the Health Ministry's Food Service are responsible for ensuring the safety of food products sold in Israel, he said. "Shmita produce are no different than that produce any other year," Slater said. "The ministry's guidelines on purchase and handling have not changed."