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California growers change safety practices

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-10-11  Views: 17
Core Tip: A group that oversees food safety programs for big California lettuce growers has changed its protocols in the wake of an E. coli outbreak last spring which caused five deaths and made more than 200 people across 36 states ill.
A group that oversees food safety programs for big California lettuce growers has changed its protocols in the wake of an E. coli outbreak last spring which caused five deaths and made more than 200 people across 36 states ill.
 
The outbreak was linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. It was a deja vu moment for food safety specialists says Erin DiCaprio, a Food Virologist with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
 
An E. coli outbreak in 2006 which was traced back to fresh spinach grown in California. In the wake of that case, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was formed as an industry-led effort to standardize food safety practices.
 
In the most recent outbreak, investigators with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that “the outbreak strain was present in some irrigation canals in close proximity to these farms,” explains DiCaprio. “It’s likely the E. coli in those canals came from a CAFO -concentrated animal feed operation- adjacent to those canals."
 
In response, California LGMA recently updated its food safety practices in several areas. Currently, leafy greens growers are already required to test their water on a monthly basis. When the winter lettuce planting season begins, growers will also need to triple the buffer zone between CAFOs and lettuce, from 400 to 1,200 feet.
 
Ijpr.org quoted Patty Lovera, a member of DC-based environmental group Food and Water Watch, adding a note of caution about how standards are set for buffer zones, water testing and water treatment: "We just don't know what the right distance is,” she argues. “We don't know exactly how risky this contamination is. And so, a lot of what's happening is just trying to add margins of safety."
 
 
 
 
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