Food safety culture and leafy green hacks

Ever since the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to bagged spinach from California in 2006 killed four and sickened 200, the leafy green folks have begged for government inspection and flogged their apparent transparency.

Anyone who brags about having government inspection has nothing to brag lettuce_skull__e_coli__O145_1_story(1)about; see XL Foods in Canada from yesterday.

And why it took 29 outbreaks before something was publicly done to allegedly improve food safety conditions remains one of those unanswered mysteries.

But for their seven years of food safety investment – which has succeeded only in lowering the Sponge Bob cone of silence over any outbreak involving California leafy greens – the best these PR flunkies can do is respond to a week-old article about food safety culture by CNN’s Dr. Gupta with a link to their own website which shows … nothing.

The phrase food safety culture has certainly jumped the shark and is bandied about by people who have no idea. I’m fairly sure Chris Griffiths came up with the phrase in the early 2000s, I used it publicly at IAFP in Calgary in 2006, based on the cultural influence of my French professor wife, and Wal-Mart Frank wrote a book about it in 2009.

Now every hack uses it.

The leafy green folks claim the LGMA website “provides access to the food safety practices, the audit checklist and annual reports which provide inspection and citation data.”

No it doesn’t.

Not anything meaningful.

And these folks are now telling Washington that food safety programs should spongebob_oil_colbert_may3_10(3)(1)(1)(1)be based on what they’ve done.


If the leafy Green Marketing Folks want to be truly transparent, they will make actual inspection data public for mere mortals to review, they will market microbial food safety at retail, and stop stonewalling every time there is an outbreak linked to leafy greens.

Like the E. coli O145 outbreak that sickened 30 people in New Brunswick (that’s in Canada) in 2012.

Or the E. coli O145 linked to Romaine lettuce that sickened some 50 people in Michigan and other states in 2010.

That lettuce was grown in Arizona, but they have also adopted the LGMA model.

And were silent during the outbreak.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at

Multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O145 infections associated with Romaine lettuce consumption, 2010


Journal of Food Protection, Number 6, June 2013, pp. 928-1108 , pp. 939-944(6)

Taylor, E.V.; Nguyen, T.A.; Machesky, K.D.; Koch, E.; Sotir, M.J.; Bohm, S.R.; Folster, J.P.; Bokanyi, R.; Kupper, A.; Bidol, S.A.; Emanuel, A.; Arends, K.D.; Johnson, S.A.; Dunn, J.; Stroika, S.; Patel, M.K.; Williams, I.

Non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) can cause severe illness, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC O145 is the sixth most commonly reported non-O157 STEC in the United States, although outbreaks have been infrequent. In April and May 2010, we investigated a multistate outbreak of STEC O145 infection. Confirmed cases were STEC O145 infections with isolate pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns
indistinguishable from those of the outbreak strain. Probable cases were STEC O145 infections or HUS in persons who were epidemiologically linked. Case-control studies were conducted in Michigan and Ohio; food exposures were analyzed at the restaurant, menu, and ingredient level. Environmental inspections were conducted in implicated food establishments, and food samples were collected and tested. To characterize clinical findings associated with infections, we conducted a chart review for case patients who sought medical care. We identified 27 confirmed and 4 probable cases from five states. Of these, 14 (45%) were hospitalized, 3 (10%) developed HUS, and

none died. Among two case-control studies conducted, illness was significantly associated with consumption of shredded romaine lettuce in Michigan (odds ratio [OR] = undefined; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.6 to undefined) and Ohio (OR = 10.9; 95% CI = 3.1 to 40.5). Samples from an unopened bag of shredded romaine lettuce yielded the predominant outbreak strain. Of 15 case patients included in the chart review, 14 (93%) had diarrhea and abdominal cramps and 11 (73%) developed bloody diarrhea. This report documents the first foodborne outbreak of STEC O145 infections in the United States. Current surveillance efforts focus primarily on E. coli O157 infections; however, non-O157 STEC can cause similar disease and outbreaks, and efforts should be made to identify both O157 and non-O157 STEC infections. Providers should test all patients with bloody diarrhea for both non-O157 and O157 STEC.