As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a constituent update today—FDA Takes Two Important Steps to Advance the Safety of Leafy Greens—farmers, researchers and regulators are urged to collaborate on many fronts to understand and prevent foodborne outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections in the United States with a confirmed or suspected link to leafy greens.
The FDA’s Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan outlines a number of progressive food safety initiatives. California partners are working with the FDA on several efforts within this action plan – outlined in a California Initiatives Roadmap – to address knowledge gaps, engage in prevention measures, and conduct response activities. One research study the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is helping coordinate in this effort is a California Longitudinal Study (CALS), led by the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the UC Davis Western Center for Food Safety, and an industry advisory group.
CALS is a multi-year study that is seeking farmers and ranchers along California’s Central Coast to allow researchers to collect and examine samples from the environment — including adjacent land, well and surface waters, and soil inputs that include compost, dust and animal fecal samples. This longitudinal approach serves as a model to offer an adaptive research strategy, perform research on a large geographic area to better understand underlying causes of contamination in the production environment, and provide a scientific basis for preventive recommendations.
To encourage participation in the CALS study, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross released a letter to industry partners, saying: “Food safety is a shared responsibility. I appreciate those who have been leaders for their industry – early adopters who have come forward and are working to find solutions to a recurring problem by collaborating with the nation’s best scientists. It shows a commitment to food safety and California agriculture. However, greater participation is needed and therefore I request your engagement so we can move swiftly, with intention, to help ensure California’s essential food safety standards are known, implemented, and met. … I respectfully ask that you engage in the CALS project in a way that works for you and your operation.”