I’m flying back to Seattle tonight where it is only slightly colder than both the weather and my reception in Monterey this morning.  The hearing today sponsored by the State of California at the Monterey County Fairgrounds was well attended – seems there were at least 200 (about 25 were press).  It was great that hot coffee was provided as heat in the building was not.  Western Growers put forth an ambitious marketing agreement that would “voluntarily require” certain standards (to be determined later) by a board consisting of dozens of producers and one, yes one, possible consumer.  Most seemed to be in agreement that voluntary is better than mandated, although frankly, that rationale was not very clearly articulated.  From my perspective I would think that the “leafy green” industry would want mandatory regulations that were required by all producers in and out of the United States.  Seems like that would create a level playing field for all and safer food too.

I thought I would never get to use this photo again, but the FDA announced that cattle again seem to be the source of the E. coli bacteria that contaminated the lettuce that lead to the Taco John’s outbreak.

E. coli outbreak tied to California lettuce
81 sickened at Taco John’s in Minnesota, Iowa; dairy farms scrutinized

WASHINGTON – Contaminated California-grown lettuce was the possible source of the E. coli outbreak that sickened 81 people late last year at Taco John’s restaurants in two states, health officials said Friday.

State and federal investigators said they have matched the strain of the bacteria associated with the outbreak to two samples taken from dairy farms in California’s Central Valley. The farms are near lettuce fields, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Investigators continue to study whether bacteria-laden manure from the dairy farms could have contaminated the nearby lettuce-growing areas, the FDA said. The FDA said other sources of contamination were possible.

The outbreak sickened 81 people who had eaten at Taco John’s restaurants in Minnesota and Iowa in November and December. Among those sickened, 26 were hospitalized. There were no deaths.

The Taco John’s outbreak occurred at roughly the same time as a separate and more widely publicized outbreak of food poisoning that sickened 70 patrons of Taco Bell restaurants in the Northeast. Though E. coli-contaminated iceberg lettuce was the likely culprit behind both outbreaks, the two are not thought to be linked.