In what may become the tag-line for last month’s E. coli/spinach outbreak and this month’s Salmonella/Tomato outbreak, Dr. Doug Powell of Kansas said it best – DON’T EAT

Dr. Powell was interviewed by Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY for this morning’s article:

Food-borne bacteria evolving, becoming more dangerous

The first rule of public health is one most of us learn in kindergarten: Don’t eat poop.  But that’s what the people were eating who were struck down with E. coli in the late summer outbreak tied to bagged spinach, California health officials now say. 

Frankly, although it seems clear that we as consumers should not eat poop, the industry seems to have little problem serving it to us – well, at least until they get caught – with their pants down – so to speak.

Interesting that produce buyers have finally asked produce manufacturers to finally stop sending them produce-laden poop to serve to customers.  According to the USA TODAY:

A newly assembled group of produce buyers is calling on three of the major produce industry associations to come up with new, enforceable food safety standards.  The buyers represent some of the biggest food retailers, including Safeway, Costco and Denny’s restaurants. They sent a letter to the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers Association last Thursday.  “We believe the power to change the industry is in the hands of the buyers,” says Tim York, president of Markon Cooperative and leader of the ad hoc group.

When big buyers finally got together and forced the meat industry to clean up poop(E. coli)-laden hamburger, we finally saw the drop in illnesses that consumers deserved – it was the “tipping point.”  Now it is good to see that this same pressure is finally forcing the lettuce and spinach industry from ignoring consumer deaths and illnesses as it has for over ten years.  AP writer, Lisa Leff, covered the Western Growers Association press conference yesterday:

Growers respond to E. coli outbreak with mandatory guidelines

Western Growers is proposing mandatory food safety guidelines for California lettuce and spinach producers, in hopes that such a system will help restore public confidence following a deadly E. coli outbreak this summer.  Under the new proposal, the California Department of Food and Agriculture would enforce the guidelines and give compliant growers a clean bill of health. The state also would have the authority to sanction growers who don’t follow food safety procedures by enjoining them from shipping or selling their crops, assessing fines or seeking criminal penalties.

Kudos to the big buyers and Western Growers for getting together in an effort to stop serving poop to customers.  Although I hate to say it – but what took you so long?  Why did the industry wait until it put the industry at risk?  Why did it not respond when consumers became sick or died years ago?  The great thing about a lawsuit is I get to ask DOLE, Natural Selection Foods, Western Growers and all the big buyers those questions – I look forward to it.