As California spinach producers began harvesting their crops this week, legislators, consumers, and health officials discussed the possibility of another E. coli outbreak while spinach farmers and processors tried to assure the public that they were doing all they could to prevent another outbreak.

According to the Salinas Californian, the industry-designed, government-supervised plan will require all handlers who voluntarily sign up to accept spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens only from growers who follow new growing standards.

Participating handlers will begin paying 2 cents per carton to pay for inspections and other activities under the new plan. Government inspectors, paid by the assessments to ensure that farmers follow the designated growing practices, will start making rounds Monday — primarily to test the checklist they’ll use in future inspections.

"We may have traced the outbreak to a certain area, and we may have identified the genetic marker," said Patti Roberts of the Department of Health Services, referring to four ranches in Monterey and San Benito counties. "But there are still a lot of unknowns out there."