Respectable Leafy greens food safety hucksterdum

To finish my tri-part Rolling-Stones inspired critique of leafy greens bullshit –outbreaks are only confirmed with direct testing and Bill Keene would be rolling in his grave — the Leafy Green Marketing Agency has done what all bureaucracies do:

Made a website.

With a dollop of PR hackerdom and an underpinning of how to tell the story better – tell the story better — The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has updated its website to provide easier access to news, information, and resources on leafy greens food safety and the program created in 2007.

The home page of the revised website takes users to the most current news item, highlights the organization’s current Twitter post, and is followed immediately by two of the most-visited sections of the website: the LGMA’s mandatory Food Safety Practices and its list of Certified LGMA Members.

With continual outbreaks involving dangerous pathogens on leafy greens., the California-based self-appointed Leafy Greens Marketing Association has been reduced to the tried, twisted and why not twerking, public relations strategy of telling the story better.

But good stories rely on good data, And consumers have no clue which companies are better at providing reduced E. coli or Salmonella spinach and lettuce.

Because they aren’t told.

Early research/North American outbreaks

Fresh fruits and vegetables were identified as the source of several outbreaks of foodborne illness in the early 1990s, particularly leafy greens (Table 1).

Date Product Pathogen Cases Setting/dish State
Apr-92 Lettuce S. enteriditis 12 Salad VT
Jan-93 Lettuce S. Heidelberg 18 Restaurant MN
Jul-93 Lettuce Norovirus 285 Restaurant IL
Aug-93 Salad E. coli O157:H7 53 Salad Bar WA
Jul-93 Salad E. coli O157:H7 10 Unknown WA
Sep-94 Salad E. coli O157:H7 26 School TX
Jul-95 Lettuce E. coli O153:H48 74 Lettuce MT
Sep-95 Lettuce E. coli O153:H47 30 Scout Camp ME
Sep-95 Salad E. coli O157:H7 20 Ceasar Salad ID
Oct-95 Lettuce E. coli O153:H46 11 Salad OH
May-96 Lettuce E. coli O157:H10 61 Mesclun Mix ML
Jun-96 Lettuce E. coli O153:H49 7 Mesclun Mix NY

Table 1. Outbreaks of foodborne illness related to leafy greens, 1992-1996

Powell, D.A., Jacob, C.J. and Chapman, B. 2009. Produce in public: Spinach, safety and public policy in Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce: Challenges, Perspectives, and Strategies ed. by X. Fan, B.A. Niemira, C.J. Doona, F.E. Feeherry and R.B. Gravani. Blackwell Publishing, pp 369-384.

So, as could have been predicted 20 years ago, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has completely revised its website to provide easier access to a wealth of news, information and resources concerning leafy greens food safety, and this important program created in 2007

Why did it take the outbreak in the fall of 2006 to compel the leafy green types industry to embrace the kind of change the sector has heralded since 2007? And at what point will future evidence be deemed sufficient to initiate change within an industry in the future?