Supermarket Perimeter - July 2020 - 6

WIRE
FDA releases report
on 2019 leafy green
E. coli outbreaks
The US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA)
has released its findings
in an investigation into
the contamination
of romaine lettuce
implicated in three
outbreaks of E. coli
0157:H7 in the fall
of 2019.
All three outbreaks
were associated with
romaine lettuce or leafy
greens from the Salinas
Valley area of California.
The FDA identified
the following about the
outbreaks:
* Each of the three
outbreaks was caused
by distinctly different
strains of E. coli
O157:H7 as determined
by whole genome
sequencing analysis;

6 - JULY 2020

* Outbreak A strain of
E. coli O157:H7 was
found in two different
brands of fresh-cut
salads containing
romaine lettuce
in 2019;
* Traceback
investigations of
multiple illness subclusters and supply
chain information
identified a common
grower with multiple
ranches/fields, which
supplied romaine
lettuce during the
timeframe of interest
to multiple business
entities associated
with Outbreaks A,
B and C;
* The Outbreak A strain
of E. coli O157:H7
was detected in a
fecal-soil composite
sample taken from
a cattle grate on

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practices," said Dan
Sutton, general manager
of Pismo-Oceano
Vegetable Exchange,
which grows leafy greens
in San Luis Obispo
County. "Clearly we need
to look even beyond our
own farms to help us
prevent future outbreaks.
Information from this
new FDA report will be
extremely valuable as
we further strengthen
our practices both in and
around our farms."
The leafy greens
industry hopes to learn
more about how the
leafy greens are being
exposed to pathogens
like E. coli in the
environment through
a series of research
projects now underway
in partnership with the
FDA and the University of
Arizona.
A series of
subcommittees have also
been appointed to review
practices in all areas with
a focus on water. The
industry is considering
approximately 30
changes to update the
practices for water used
in farming leafy greens.
Other subcommittees
on soil amendments
and sanitation have
also been meeting, and
a subcommittee on
proximity of animals
and adjacent land use
is being appointed. All
committees are looking
to strengthening existing
requirements.
"Even before these
last outbreaks occurred,
the leafy greens
industry had launched a
comprehensive process

to review and update
required food safety
practices included
under the California
Leafy Greens Marketing
Agreement (LGMA),"
said Scott Horsfall, CEO
of the LGMA, a food
safety program which
establishes uniform
standards for how leafy
greens are farmed and
then verifies practices
are taking place through
mandatory government
food safety audits of leafy
greens farms.
"The goal is to create
unified standards for how
leafy greens are farmed
using the best science
and expertise available.
We will be relying on
information supplied
by FDA, scientists and
others to help us improve
these practices so we
can further protect
consumers."
Producers that are
members of LGMA sign
on to follow a set of
science-based practices
that require them to
implement over 300
safety checkpoints,
and each member is
audited by the California
Department of Food
and Agriculture. Any
member who does not
comply is decertified,
and their company name
is shared with retail and
foodservice buyers and
the public.

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the

public land less than
two miles upslope
from a produce farm
with multiple fields
tied to the outbreaks
by the traceback
investigations.
Other STEC strains,
while not linked to
outbreaks A,B, or C, were
found in closer proximity
to where romaine lettuce
crops were grown,
including two samples
from a border area of a
farm immediately next to
cattle grazing land in the
hills above leafy greens
fields and two samples
from on-farm water
drainage basins.
The FDA determined
that adjacent land
used for cattle grazing
was the most likely
contributing factor to
the three outbreaks.
While the agency
could not confirm a
definitive source or
route of contaminations,
the administration
considered indirect
transmission from fecal
material from nearby
lands from water run-off,
wind, animals or vehicles
to romaine fields or to
the agricultural water
sources used to grow
the romaine as possible
routes of contamination.
In response to the
findings, California leafy
greens growers have
pledged to incorporate
the determinations into
the ongoing process
of strengthening food
safety practices on farms.
"As leafy greens
farmers, we work hard
every day to follow the
best-known food safety


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Supermarket Perimeter - July 2020

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