The FDA Will Now Have Oversight Of Fresh Produce Safety Before Anyone Gets Sick

No one expects to add more fresh fruit and vegetables to their diet and end up with a stomach bug, a serious illness, or dead. Yet that’s beginning to happen, with multi-state outbreaks of food-borne illness, especially in items like fruit and salad greens that are generally eaten without cooking, and apparently not washed sufficiently. The Food and Drug Administration wants to change that.

In the announcement of the program, the FDA cites outbreaks in the last decade or so of E. coli in spinach in 2006, and salmonella in peanut butter in 2007, 2008, and 2012. Pathogens are invisible to farmers and cooks, but are potentially deadly. When the government is constantly pushing Americans to eat more fruit and vegetables, how can they also keep current food policy when outbreaks in foods like this can hurt people? Here’s a wacky idea: inspect before something goes wrong.

The new rules mean more obligations and inspections for farmers, including testing the water they use for irrigation, training workers on sanitation (namely: please do not poop on or near the cilantro) and look out for wild animals that could also contaminate food items by, um, doing the same thing.

The regulations on a crop depend on how it’s grown and what it’s generally used for. The more restrictive rules, which also apply to farms abroad that supply U.S. markets, would apply only to foods that will most likely eaten raw, like salad ingredients or strawberries.

New produce safety rules aim to prevent illness outbreaks [Associated Press]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.