Brandon Bailey (a.k.a. “E. coli Reporter”) of the San Jose Mercury News wrote again this morning on the produce industries desire to have a “seal of approval” for leafy vegetables. See full article – “Plan for safer vegetables is already drawing critics”

However, what are the rules for getting the seal? As Mr. Bailey points out:

…. criteria for earning that seal won’t be determined until this spring. And some critics are already saying the industry’s proposal relies too heavily on policing itself. In coming weeks, an outspoken state legislator is expected to unveil his own plan for increasing the state’s role in setting safety standards and enforcing compliance.

The good news is that the industry and regulators are talking about it:

… The [California Department of Health] has scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. Friday [January 12] at the Monterey County Fairgrounds to gauge support for the growers’ proposal. The plan would implement new rules governing such practices as using compost for fertilizer, testing irrigation water and keeping livestock away from cropland. These are considered crucial because E. coli usually comes from the feces of cattle and other animals.

Here is the link to the Public Hearing Notice and the “Proposed Californina Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement.” However, other than wanting the public to simply believe in the seal and start buying the product again, I wonder how much public input the industry and Government really want:

… Consumer advocates say the specifics are crucial in judging whether the growers’ plan will be effective. For months, state and federal officials have been pushing the industry to compile an updated set of procedures known as “good agricultural practices,” and critics complain that the process is taking too long.

Politics is not too far away:

… State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Bakersfield, has criticized both the farm industry and state officials for their response to past E. coli outbreaks. He said elements of the growers’ proposal, including the initial voluntary compliance and the industry-dominated board, amount to “little more than the fox watching the henhouse.”

Me, I’m off to Washington DC this week to talk with Congressional leaders on tackling food safety hearings (See Mr. Bill goes to Washington). Perhaps on the way back to Seattle, I’ll stop in Monterey?  “What fox, what henhouse?”