An editorial in the Contra Costa Times, reminds us that the current E. coli outbreak is something that should alert consumers to the lack of regulatory oversight over farmers and distributors of leafy greens that are purchased at local supermarkets.

For the past week, an E. coli outbreak, spread through contaminated spinach believed to have originated in the Salinas Valley, has swept the United States. Federal health officials have ordered a recall of all raw and packaged spinach from store shelves. Although investigators haven’t determined the exact cause of the deadly bacteria, they say they have traced the origin of the outbreak to Earthbound Farms Natural Selection label.

It’s the 20th time in a decade that leafy greens from the region have been contaminated. Twice in the last 10 months, the Food and Drug Administration warned California farmers they needed to do more to ensure that the leafy greens grown on their farms weren’t at risk of E. coli contamination. Yet the FDA appears to have left it up to individual producers to monitor their own safety standards.

The editorial says that “voluntary monitoring clearly has not worked,” and urges federal and state regulatory agencies to start “minding the farm”.