On April 6, the Food and Drug Administration fired an unmistakable warning shot at the leafy greens industry. Hopefully, this will be a call to action that gets to the root of the problem of the persistent presence of dangerous E. coli in the growing environment for leafy greens and other fresh produce.
Referring to the recurring nature of E. coli in the Salinas and Santa Maria growing area, the FDA declared the recurring strain implicated in the 2020 outbreak to be a ‘reasonably foreseeable hazard’. The FDA attributed the danger to the presence of cattle on land adjacent to growing fields.
It is remarkable that the FDA used regulatory language to express its finding, spelling out the implications: farms covered by the FSMA produce safety rule “are required to implement science and risk-based preventive measures” to minimize the risk of serious illness or death from the E. coli hazard.
However, the FDA message is aimed not only at farms but at every entity involved in the commercial production, processing and sale of leafy greens coming from the California Central Coast Growing Region. The message is that, without effective preventive measures, such leafy greens are in violation of federal food safety regulatory standards.