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A Step Toward Regulating
California’s Fresh Produce

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, February 2, 2007

Senator Dean Florez of California’s 16th District has introduced legislation calling for mandatory regulation of the California fresh produce industry. As his office explains in a press release:

The first measure in the bill series Florez will introduce gives the Department of Health Services (DHS) the authority it needs to effectively manage future outbreaks and best protect the public from threats like E. coli, such as allowing DHS to recall, quarantine or destroy tainted produce. Under the measure, growers of leafy greens would be required to get a license through DHS, just like processors already do. During the licensing process, growers would have to identify for DHS any risk factors at their growing locations, such as proximity to wildlife which could track E. coli into crop fields. The bill also creates an inspection program, funded by the licensing fees, which will send inspectors to farms who will conduct testing of water, soil and produce as they deem necessary.

The second bill calls on DHS to establish “good agricultural practices,” or GAP, which growers of leafy greens must follow, governing everything from water and fertilizer use to issues of sanitation and flooding. The bill prohibits the use of creek water for irrigation or raw manure for fertilizer and requires that water used for growing leafy greens be tested every two weeks during the growing season and immediately prior to harvest. Growers must maintain records of these practices, which must be reviewed prior to transporting the leafy greens.

The third measure in the series requires DHS to establish the minimum requirements of a traceback system which will allow the speedy tracking of leafy greens from farm to processor, to distributor, to retailer. An expedited traceback system would allow DHS to quickly trace contaminated greens to their precise source, preventing a repeat of September when all spinach was suspect and all growers took the hit because consumers did not immediately know which produce they could trust.

You can read three fact sheets on the State Senator’s California Produce Safety Action Plan:

  1. Expanded Authority Of DHS
  2. Standards For Growers Of Leafy Greens
  3. Traceback

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