Spinach SynopsisThe USDA’s Economic Research Service magazine, Amber Waves, featured an article written by Linda Calvin titled, "Outbreak linked to spinach forces reassessment of food safety practices."  Ms. Calvin’s article offered a synopsis of last year’s E. coli outbreak traced to fresh, bagged, baby spinach, and went on to focus on the economic impacts of the outbreak, making several points:

  • In response to continuing problems in sectors of the fresh produce industry, FDA has issued a series of warning letters and initiatives to improve fresh produce safety.
  • The California leafy green industry is under strong pressure to prevent further outbreaks from consumers, retail and foodservice buyers, and the California State legislature.
  • After the2006 Dole spinach outbreak, the Western Growers Association led a drive for self-regulation.
  • For the first time, members of the produce industry sought mandatory standards for the production of leafy green vegetables in an effort to increase consumer confidence in their products.

Ms. Calvin concluded:

Whoever sets the standards—industry or government—will have the same challenge: to develop science-based practices that reduce risk at the minimum cost. Ongoing scientific research will contribute to this evolving process. In April 2007, Fresh Express, a large bagged salad company, distributed $2 million of funding to support scientific research on E. coli O157:H7 in leafy greens. Scientists from universities, FDA, CDC, and the California Department of Health Services participated in the selection of the projects. The Center for Produce Safety was established in April at the University of California in Davis. This center is supported by pledges of over $5 million from the Produce Marketing Association, Taylor Farms, Western Growers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the University of California.