U.S – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a targeted sampling of leafy greens produced on farms and ranches in the Salinas Valley region of California during the autumn 2022 harvest season.

The FDA intends to gather roughly 240 lettuce samples from farms/ranches where recent traceback investigations revealed as being possibly connected to an outbreak of a foodborne illness where lettuce or leafy greens were the likely or suspect food source.

Depending on the circumstances, the FDA may also take environmental samples including water, soil, and spit. This will depend on the sampling results and the FDA’s prior inspections of the farm or ranch in question.

Salmonella spp. testing will be performed on all samples and E. Sampling for E. coli O157:H7 will start in the middle of September 2022 and last through October 2022.

The agency is working to improve the safety of leafy greens by continuing to implement the Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan (LGAP).

In order to identify practices or conditions that may present microbial risks and assist leafy greens growers and processors in strengthening the microbiological safety of their operations, sampling efforts are a critical component of the LGAP.

These sampling efforts aim to detect and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.

In order to get more knowledge about leafy greens operations, multidisciplinary food safety experts from across the FDA will be meeting with growers of leafy greens in California over the next two months.

Recent outbreaks have sparked questions regarding harvest equipment sanitation and how field production and processing methods might be causing contamination incidents.

These visits are crucial to strengthening the FDA’s collective awareness of the complexity of leafy greens production in order to better enhance FDA’s efforts under the LGAP.

Through the LGAP, which may be accessed on the current LGAP homepage, the agency has taken action over the last two years to improve the safety of leafy greens.

Recent LGAP milestones

Over the past year, FDA published a draft regulation addressing the Produce Safety Rule’s pre-harvest agricultural water provisions for covered produce other than sprouts.

It has also made resources available and taken part in engagement activities to aid stakeholders in understanding the suggested requirements.

In addition, FDA has continued to collaborate closely with industry and regulatory partners in California to promote and provide technical support for the California Food Safety Roadmap and the California Agricultural Neighbors Interim Report, on best practices to support the improvement of regional food safety initiatives.

To enable pesticide registration of antimicrobial compounds, the Environmental Protection Agency together with the FDA, further improved a pre-harvest agricultural water treatment efficacy technique.

The agency has also taken part in a number of initiatives to advance the action plan’s priorities for research, data exchange, and testing methodologies.

The FDA carried out a different leafy greens sampling assignment in 2021, where it gathered lettuce from industrial coolers in the Salinas Valley farming region of California.

They tested the samples for Salmonella species and E. coli O157:H7. from May through November of the previous year.

The report details the agency’s discovery of STEC in two additional samples as well as Salmonella enterica in one sample of green leaves.

Potentially tainted merchandise was always destroyed, and additional checks were carried out, according to FDA.

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