In the wake of an E. coli outbreak tied to romaine, consumer and food safety advocacy groups are calling for the Food and Drug Administration to mandate more stringent traceability measures for companies that handle leafy greens and other “high-risk” food.
In a letter to FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the groups — including the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, Consumers Union and The Pew Charitable Trusts — cite the outbreak as proof that better traceability is needed, and they noted Walmart’s blockchain pilot as proof that big strides are possible.
The groups urge the FDA, within six months, to create a list of high-risk foods and issue a proposed rule to enhance record-keeping for those products.
Those actions would be consistent with direction given years ago in the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The current outbreak is the second in six months connected to a leafy green, and no source of contaminated product has been identified in either situation.
“Repeated outbreaks of this nature have the potential to modify long-term consumer perceptions around the safety of leafy greens and fresh produce more generally,” the groups stated in the letter. “This would have lasting consequences across the produce industry, as well as a negative impact on consumers deterred from eating these healthy and nutritious foods. These outbreaks should therefore provide strong motivation to members of industry to comply with existing requirements and adopt voluntary practices.
“We urge the FDA to use this moment as an opportunity to advise and communicate with industry by providing guidance on compliance and best practices related to record-keeping,” the groups stated in the letter.
They also called the FDA to improve communication with the produce industry and encourage adoption of voluntary measures like the Produce Traceability Initiative.