The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has sent a letter to the California lettuce industry, outlining a plan of immediate action for state regulatory agencies and the industry to protect fresh-cut produce from E. coli contamination, according to the Herald-Salinas Bureau.
Investigations into outbreaks associated with lettuce and spinach, including an incident in September involving Dole Fresh Vegetable bagged salads in Minnesota, traced the produce back to the Salinas valley in California.
In 1998, the FDA released a set of guidelines recommending good agricultural and manufacturing practices for the industry, but some feel that precautions are being taken lightly.
Dr. Robert Brackett, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, is urging the completion of a “comprehensive, collaborative plan to address the issue of E. coli 0157:H7 in lettuce.”
Suggestions in the letter include intensifying communication within the industry, regulatory agencies and academia about E. coli outbreaks and stepping up research efforts.