An editorial in the Los Angeles Times says that all farms must follow the same food safety practices, and that the FDA needs to develop specific guidelines for the fresh produce industry to follow so the industry can prevent fecal contamination from happening in the first place:
“In addition to testing, common safety practices involve locating fields at a distance from livestock operations in order to avoid contamination from manure. If farms use manure as a fertilizer, it’s supposed to be pathogen-free, and even then there is generally a waiting period between fertilizing and planting. But not all farms follow all these practices, or to the same extent. In the spinach contamination case, investigators are examining manure from a cattle pasture next to the field. The strain of E. coli found in the manure is the same as that implicated in the deaths of three people who ate the contaminated spinach.
Each time there is an E. coli breakout, the state and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demand that the industry clean up its act. The industry asks for precise guidelines on what to do, and it gets no answers. Regulators can start by outlining mandatory, common-sense safety practices to protect both public health and farming’s reputation.”