The California State Senate became the first legislative body in the nation to recognize the unique risk posed by leafy greens when it approved Senate bills that enact food safety reforms.

Senate Bill 200 gives the Department of Health Services the authority to recall or destroy produce which may pose a threat to the public. The measure also creates an inspection program to proactively address the threat of outbreaks. DHS inspectors would have the authority to conduct periodic on-farm inspections, including testing of water, soil and produce.

Senate Bill 201 mandates Good Agricultural Practices for leafy green growers, covering everything from water and fertilizer use, to worker hygiene, to the creation of buffer zones between fields and potential contamination sources. Growers would be required to maintain extensive documentation of these practices. These documents would be reviewed by DHS to ensure compliance.

SB 202 calls for the creation of a traceback system that can quickly trace contaminated produce through the various stages of the distribution process, from farm to processor, to distributor, to retailer. In the most recent E. coli outbreaks, lettuce and spinach producers nationwide took a major economic hit, because it could not immediately be determined where the infected produce came from and every farm was suspect. The ability to quickly find the specific source in an outbreak, combined with DHS’ ability to destroy suspect produce, will prevent a similar industry-wide hit in future E. coli outbreaks.