Monday, July 13, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 1st, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 9 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 9

Some local growers face new regulations in wake of E. coli outbreaks


Several Santa Barbara County lettuce farmers will soon have to adhere to a new set of food and safety standards that were adopted in response to recent outbreaks of E. coli in romaine lettuce.

Some Santa Barbara County lettuce farmers will soon have to adhere to a new set of food and safety standards that were recently adopted by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), a voluntary membership program that was formed to ensure the safety of California-grown leafy greens, announced on April 19 that its board voted to adopt a more stringent set of food safety guidelines that must be met by member farms.

“The LGMA and its members have an obligation to produce safe leafy greens,” the LGMA wrote in a press release. “We are very aware of the tragic impacts a foodborne illness can have on consumers, our customers, and our entire industry.”

While the LGMA has always required growers to pass water tests, the new requirements include additional safeguards. Farmers will have to categorize water sources, consider how and when water is applied to the crop, conduct testing to ensure that water is safe for the intended use, sanitize water if necessary, and verify that all of the above precautions have been taken. Untreated surface water will also no longer be allowed for the overhead irrigation of leafy greens prior to harvest.

The new standards, according to the LGMA, were approved in direct response to last year’s E. coli outbreaks involving romaine lettuce and subsequent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigations that suggested irrigation water from sources such as canals and reservoirs could have been the cause.

One such outbreak, which caused 62 reported cases of illness and 25 hospitalizations across 17 states, was linked to Adam Brothers Farming Inc. in December 2018.

The Santa Maria farm voluntarily recalled all red- and green-leaf lettuce and cauliflower that was harvested from Nov. 27 to 30, 2018, in cooperation with an FDA investigation into the outbreak.

The recall was initiated after sediment from a reservoir near Adam Brothers Farming produce tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, the same strain that was first reported to be present in romaine lettuce a month earlier and has since impacted scores of individuals in multiple states. While Adam Brothers stated in a press release that filtered and treated water from the reservoir may have come in contact with the farm’s produce after it was harvested, none of the filtered water tested positive for E. coli.

The FDA later announced that it had exhausted all efforts to find other potential sources for the E. coli outbreak, but the particular strain wasn’t found anywhere else in sampling done during the investigation in various California areas and counties that grow leafy greens.

In a report released on Feb. 13, the FDA concluded that the water from the on-farm water reservoir where the outbreak strain was found was most likely to have led to the contamination of some romaine lettuce consumed during the outbreak.

Adam Brothers is not an LGMA member, however, and will not have to adhere to the program’s new restrictions. Several other local leafy green farms—including Santa Maria’s Bonipak Produce, Babé Farms, and Agro Jal Farms—will have to comply. Other farms in Santa Barbara County will also be impacted, including Lompoc’s Big E Produce and EpicVeg.

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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