The Food and Drug Administration has released its game plan for the year on resolving repeated E. coli outbreaks from romaine lettuce
The 2020 Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan features three main areas to focus on in the fight against Shiga-toxin producing E. coli: prevention, response and addressing knowledge gaps.
“We’ve previously called on the leafy green industry to do more, and meeting our own responsibility involves collaboration with state partners on education, training and inspections,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a news release. “This plan is designed to help foster a more urgent, collaborative and action-oriented approach. “
Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, said the agency’s prevention plans include providing technical assistance to the industry, and greater “emphasis on the potential impact of adjacent land uses,” a reference to concerns of nearby livestock operations and their effect on irrigation water.
The FDA has extended compliance dates for produce (other than sprouts) on ag water requirements, but the agency hopes to issue revisions this year. The FDA also plans to release its report on three E. coli outbreaks tied to romaine lettuce late last year.
April Ward, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement communications director, said the LGMA and its sister group in Arizona are, at their core, partnerships with the government.
“We want these standards to be as strong as possible,” Ward wrote in the group’s blog. https://lgma.ca.gov/news/fda-2020-leafy-greens “Any input provided by the FDA including product testing data, research and information gathered through outbreak investigations is extremely useful as we work to improve our systems.”
The FDA’s plan has many initiatives, including:
- Enhanced inspections, auditing and certification programs;
- Develop a “Leafy Green Data Trust,” a public-private bank of data from inspections, traceability, audits and other information collected by growers;
- Meeting with growers in Salinas, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., about issues specific to those regions;
- Continued FDA surveillance inspections of romaine;
- Issue a proposed rule on required records for traceability;
- Enhance recall communications, including using retail loyalty card data;
- Accelerate whole genome sequencing data submissions; and
- Support multi-year “longitudinal” studies in growing areas to better understand how pathogens survive.