The latest outbreak of food-borne illness, traced to a virulent bacterium in bagged spinach, is being called a watershed moment for American industrial agriculture, a time of reckoning for industry and government and the public. 

Critics tell the New York Times the factory farming system needs an overhaul, with produce farmers and processors being subject to the same sorts of mandatory rules as the meat industry to protect against E. coli O157:H7 and other harmful bacteria. More outbreaks of disease are now traced to produce than to meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk combined.