( File photo )

Bonduelle Fresh Americas, which markets the Ready Pac brand, is initiating new water treatment standards for leafy greens.

Starting May 1, new standards for Bonduelle Fresh Americas growers will include treating “open-source” water before it is used for overhead irrigation in the 21 days preceding harvest, according to a news release. Open-source includes groundwater, water from reservoirs and water moved in irrigation canals.

"Safety has always been our highest priority and Bonduelle Fresh Americas continues to be committed to delivering the safe, fresh and healthy products our customers and consumers have come to expect from us," CEO Mary Thompson said in the release. "Since day one, we have been a part of the initiative to heighten agricultural water standards and truly believe it is critical to do so as soon as possible to protect our leafy greens supply from possible agricultural water contamination."

Investigations into recent E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens or romaine lettuce specifically have focused on open-source water, although how the E. coli is transferred is still being studied.

The Romaine Task Force is seeking input from the industry on water testing and treatment, and the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is expected soon to require the treating of open-source water.

Taylor Farms, Salinas, Calif., announced in late March would be treating the open-source water starting May. 1.

Bonduelle Fresh Americas’ food safety team assessed its growing fields, focusing on water sources and how it is distributed, and irrigation and treatment methods, according to the release. Along with overhead irrigation, other aerial applications, such as crop protection chemicals, Bonduelle growers will meet microbial standards of drinking water or treat it to reduce pathogen risks.

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