Is bagged salad safe? When an FDA expert on E. coli was asked that question recently, he said “No I don’t believe it is.” Should veggie lovers still be worried by sickly greens?
Digital Journal — According to a report from National Public Radio, there’s not enough science to subdue fears about outbreaks of E. coli in bagged lettuce and spinach. As journalist Ben Adler found out, California is still recovering from last year’s spinach contamination with very little knowledge on what caused the E. coli strains in the first place.
In fall 2006, an outbreak of E. coli sickened 205 people and killed three, sparking fears in kitchens nationwide that a supposedly benign vegetable like spinach may be a quiet killer. As a result, sales of packaged spinach have dropped about 40 per cent from the annual rate of $240 million US in recent years.
Adler interviewed a Food and Drug Administration “point man” on “all things E. coli” on whether bagged leafy greens are safe today. “No, I don’t believe it is,” the unnamed FDA source said.
California is not sitting back on its haunches. A government-sponsored plan will ensure that shippers and manufacturers of leafy greens will only buy crops from farmers who follow certain safety measures. The state says 99 per cent of crops will be covered, which includes tests for water sources and inspection for animal intrusion.
That means one per cent of the crops — usually organic crops — won’t be governed by these measures. Adler says the small amount of non-compliance won’t worry too many buyers who view 99 per cent as an impressive start so far.
Jim Bogart, president of the Grower-Shipper Vegetable Association of Central California, applauded the FDA on the statewide plan, according to the Capital Press.
“This is a complement to FDA’s regulations of good manufacturing practices and virtually every processor that I know of is doing these things” Bogart said. “All of these recommendations – they’re good ones.”
Let’s go a step further and declare these recommendations as essential. Why does it take an outbreak to move government to action? Safety guidelines should’ve been in place years ago to prevent any E. coli crisis, which would’ve helped the veggie industry in the long run.
But it’s easy to look back and try to change the past. Moving forward, California should set an example and follow through with their safety measures in order to give salad lovers what they always want: healthy choices, disease free.