Sanford Nax of The Fresno Bee wrote a story last week entitled: Florez gets tough on produce

Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter has been the only consistent political figure over the last several months focusing on the E. coli crisis in leafy greens grown in California. He held a hearing in October following the Dole spinach E. coli outbreak and was in Monterey a few weeks ago at public meetings with the produce industry. He is correctly focused on public safety, but is also smart enough to help the industry help themselves:

“Where does this leave us?” asked Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, on Monday. “From my perspective, with a very small window to regain confidence in the marketplace. I don’t think the leafy green industry will be able to sustain any more crises in confidence.”

Florez supports creating buffer zones around dairies and plans within 10 days to introduce legislation that would require more frequent testing of irrigation water, give the state Department of Food and Agriculture full authority to recall produce and increase worker sanitary procedures, among other things.

In one of the oddest quotes in the article Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau executive director, said:

“We have by far the safest food supply in the world,” he said, adding the Taco John’s incident underscores the importance of buying produce grown in the United States. “This is another reason we need a domestic food supply. We can go back and figure out what went wrong. You can’t necessarily do that when we go overseas,” he said.

Now, that is a spin – I have been doing E. coli-tainted lettuce cases for years and do you know how many have happened because of foreign produced lettuce or spinach – ZERO.

As for where the lettuce came from, it is odd that the health officials will not tell the public where the contamination occurred. What we do know is that in both the Taco Bell and Taco John’s E. coli outbreaks, the lettuce was reported (by LA Times) to have been grown in California. Taco Bell received lettuce from Ready-Mix (who was fired) and Taco Johns received lettuce from Bix (who was fired too). Bix is rumored to have received lettuce from a grower in Buttonwillow, California.  I’m still looking for the lettuce grower in the Taco Bell case.

Rumor has it that one or both of the lettuce growers may have been using liquefied cow manure to irrigate the lettuce that was the cause of the E. coli outbreaks at Taco Johns and Taco Bell.  Ironically, I found some interesting information about dairy herds and their leftovers in the Michigan Daily Telegram article – Environmental impact depends on how well dairy operators follow the rules

Manure and wash water from a large dairy is stored in a lagoon. The liquid mixture of feces, urine, water and sand — sand is used for the cows’ bedding — is then spread on fields as a fertilizer.

“Ultimately, the manure kind of enhances the healthiness of the land, so it becomes more productive,” Conway said.

While manure has long been used as a fertilizer, Woiwode said modern dairy farms and the manure they produce are very different from their forebears. She called modern manure “toxic waste.”

Previously, “the animals would be grazed and the waste would be deposited in fields directly or be deposited on hay and produce a product that would be much more likely to stay on the ground when deposited,” Woiwode said.

Now, the methods and technology are very different.

“When the waste is liquefied, as opposed to being deposited on the ground or mixed with straw and composting as it’s applied to fields, it’s much more readily running into the soil, into the ground water or into the field tiles,” Woiwode said. “It’s not staying where it’s supposed to be.”

I also found an interesting article on salmonella in herds – see here.