Canada watches new federal import restrictions on lettuce

‘California growers should test lettuce for E. coli - or keep it’

Companies that import lettuce must now prove each shipment has been tested for E. coli, or was grown outside of California's Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties. The directive will remain in force until December 31, to cover the harvest season for California lettuce producers.

Canadian food safety researchers have stated that unprecedented federal import restrictions on romaine lettuce and salad mixes from California’s Salinas Valley point to problems in the U.S. agricultural system. This system supplies British Columbians with more than half their fresh vegetables.

Canada imported 183,300 tonnes of lettuce from the United States last year, and 64 per cent of that was from California. The remainder came from Arizona, Ohio and Florida. Between June 2019 and July 2020, more than 50,000 shipments of the vegetable crossed the border.

Cattle are pastured on the hillsides surrounding the Salinas valley. That means manure can be washed downhill, gather in the bottom of the valley and possibly contaminate surface water and groundwater. This water is used to irrigate the hectares of lettuce and other vegetables growing in the valley bottom.

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