UPI Food Writer Julia Watson reports that the Food and Drug Administration is aware of 18 outbreaks related to lettuces since 1995 caused by E. coli, and one relating to fresh-cut spinach. Those 19 cases account for over 400 reported cases of illnesses and 2 deaths.
Robert E. Brackett, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, sent a worried letter to those California companies that handle leafy greens specifically, since investigations traced eight of the outbreaks to growers in Salinas, California.
The California Department of Health Services’ Food and Drug Branch revealed at an annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection that sites susceptible to localized flooding could be contaminated with E. coli.
In addition to the possibility of contamination due to flooding, California farmers are also being investigated for the use of methyl bromide, a chemical that turns vegetables hyper-red and kills weeds and insects. The chemical can harm human neurological systems as well as deplete the ozone layer.