Largely due to a string of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to lettuce and other leafy greens, the FDA will soon announce new rules (as opposed to voluntary recommendations) for the production and packing of fresh produce. See FDA Produce Rule Announcement. The new rules will set enforceable standards for fresh produce safety at the farm and packing house. The purpose of the proposed rule:
is to reduce the risk of illness associated with contaminated fresh produce. The proposed rule will be based on prevention-oriented public health principles and incorporate what we have learned in the past decade since the agency issued general good agricultural practice guidelines entitled “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables” (GAPs Guide). The prtoposed rule also will reflect comments received on the agency’s 1998 update of its GAPs guide and its July 2009 draft commodity specific guidances for tomatoes, leafy greens, and melons. Although the proposed rule will be based on recommendations that are included in the GAPs guide, it does not make the entire guidance mandatory. FDA’s proposed rule would, however, set out clear standards for implementation of modern preventive controls.
One positive thing to come from the produce-related outbreaks of the past several years is a lot of data–about, among other things, the importance of traceability, how and why outbreaks happen, and measures to take at the farm and processing level to reduce the potential for proliferation of disease causing bacteria.
Here are several accounts of severe foodpoisoning illnesses suffered by produce outbreak victims:
Kelly Cobb–developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after consuming E. coli O157:H7 contaminated romaine lettuce.
Heather Whybrew–hospitalized three weeks after consuming E. coli O157:H7 contaminated romaine lettuce.
Regan Erickson–developed HUS after consuming E. coli O157:H7 contaminated Dole baby spinach.
Ashley Armstrong–developed HUS after consuming E. coli O157:H7 contaminated Dole baby spinach.
June Dunning, Betty Howard, and Ruby Trautz–women who died after consuming E. coli-contaminated Dole baby spinach.