Posts Tagged: leafy greens
Food safety authorities were in Monterey County earlier this week gathering information from farmers, conservationists and scientists about new rules regulating the fresh produce industry, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.
UC Cooperative Extension was represented by the director of Monterey County's UC Cooperative Extension office, Sonya Varea-Hammond. She is pictured at the meeting with the director of the Food Safety Project, Jim O'Hara, in the The Packer.
The Monterey forum was the fifth in a series offered by the Food Safety Project to gather comments and input to send to the FDA in May. The Packer story said the Food Safety Project "worked with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources during the forums."The new rules being considered at the meeting, according to the Chron, are separate from food safety legislation now being considered by the Senate. However, they are similarly a reaction to a growing number of fruit and vegetable related food-borne illnesses.
"A lot of what they're talking about seems too expensive to me," the story quoted Kevin McEnnis, owner of a 20-acre Santa Rosa farm. "I'm concerned that they're not as interested in our interests. We just don't have a lot of clout."
The safety of fresh produce the subject of Monterey County forum.
A behind-the-scenes battle is raging in the Senate over how to regulate small and organic growers without ruining them - and still protect consumers from contaminated food, according to a story published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The crux of the legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate how products are grown, stored, transported, inspected, traced from farm to table and recalled when needed.
Small-scale producers may face compliance with tough laws.
UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Trevor Suslow wrote an opinion piece for Food Safety News saying a recent Consumers Union study - which questioned the safety of prewashed salad greens - has caused a flurry of concern and confusion.An article in the March 2010 issue of Consumer Reports magazine said its study of packaged leafy greens found nearly 40 percent of samples contained bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, according to a news release distributed on PR Newswire.
Suslow wrote that he thinks it is "grossly unfair" to raise fears beyond what is supported by science and everyday shared experiences with salad greens.
"What I rely on for my personal confidence in regularly consuming lettuces, spring mix, and spinach salads is that there are billions and billions of servings of these items consumed every year in the U.S. alone and the predominant experience we have is of safe consumption," Suslow wrote.
The CR news release said FDA should increase the specificity of its guidance and regulations for packaged leafy greens. In the meantime, the writers suggested consumers buy packages as long as possible before their use-by date and wash the greens at home, even if the packages say "prewashed" or "triplewashed."
Suslow agrees customers should look for use-by dates on packaged leafy greens. He goes further to suggest consumers note that packages in grocery stores are refrigerated vertical in a row, not laid one on top of the other in stacks.
Suslow said he checks the temperature of the greens' display case with his hand and confirms that the bags are very cool to the touch. (Perhaps one day there will be a cell phone ap for that, Suslow suggests.)
But he doesn't recommend consumers wash packaged salads at home.
"I do not support or believe that re-washing packaged salads should be a recommendation for the home consumer," Suslow wrote. "A large and diverse panel of experts published a comprehensive article in 2007 detailing the scientific evidence for the lack of benefit and the greater risk of cross-contamination in the home."
Packaged leafy greens.
Last Saturday night, the CBS Evening News aired a six-minute special report on food safety. The research component for the story featured an appearance by UC Davis Cooperative Extension food safety specialist Linda Harris, in which she explained work underway to understand the potential food safety impact of irrigation practices on leafy green vegetables.
Reporter Bill Witaker noted that cutting edge research is being conducted around the country to find out how pathogens make it onto fresh produce and how to reduce the risk. He used the UC Davis Center for Produce Safety as a case in point.
Interviewed inside her lab, Harris told Whitaker the effectiveness of her work is "hard to prove, it's hard to measure, but I really think we do make a difference."
UC research isn't confined to laboratories. Three UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors in Monterey County - Steve Koike, Richard Smith and Michael Cahn - are working with campus-based researchers to determine the ability of the deadly E. coli 0157:H7 to survive in the field.
They reported in UC Delivers that they used harmless E. coli as surrogate organisms to evaluate how variations in soil moisture and environmental conditions impact the organism's survival in soil, water and on plant surfaces. In addition, experiments on E. coli source-tracking, detection technologies and field ecology are being conducted to gather information from an environment that reflects the actual farming conditions of the local agricultural industry.
UC scientists are helping protect the safety of the U.S. food supply.