The recent Romaine lettuce recall—two in the last year—has turned the leafy green industry upside down. Flashbacks of the 2006 spinach recall in California’s Salinas Valley haunt the area’s farmers, the same farmers who after the 2006 outbreak implemented stringent practices through the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement aimed at stopping the next outbreak.

But it happened again. Why?

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Training for on-farm fruit and vegetable operations in the Produce Safety Rule is proceeding. The FDA and state departments of agriculture are offering on-farm educational inspections prior to regulatory inspections in their “educate before we regulate” approach. With the emphasis placed on worker hygiene, soil amendments, wildlife & domestic animal intrusion and irrigation water testing; I wonder if we may be missing an important aspect in post-harvest handling. Sanitation of harvest and packing shed equipment is critical to ensure pathogens don’t become established in the equipment and serve as a source of contamination.

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Food safety requirements start young, even before a child starts eating solid food. Infant formula serves as a partial or complete substitute for breast milk and as a sole source of all nutrients for an infant. Because it comprises much or all of an infant’s diet, the contamination of powdered infant formula with a foodborne pathogen poses an extreme risk to the health of a child, as their immune systems are still developing. One bacterium often found to be the culprit in cases of contamination in powdered infant formula is Cronobacter sakazakii (Cronobacter). Continue Reading