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FDA Must Set Salad Standard, Group Says

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not industry, should set the standards for leafy greens Consumers Union, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, said yesterday.

Last weekend, Ippolito International, a signatory of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA)–a voluntary agreement between growers to adhere to certain safety practices–announced a recall of loose spinach due to a Salmonella contamination that was shipped to 12 states.

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The recall comes just days before a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scheduled hearing on whether the LGMA should be used as a wider model for regulating the leafy greens industry.

“Consumers Union thinks this model is not the way to go.” The organization will oppose a national USDA-Sponsored LGMA in testimony in Monterrey, California this week.

“The recall underlines the fact that we still have a ways to go before the nation’s food supply is as safe as it can and should be,” says the group’s consumer safety blog.

Though the advocacy group admits that certain measures of the LGMA may improve industry practices, they cite the voluntary nature of the agreement and standards that are not sensitive to small farmers and environmentalist concerns as critical problems.

Instead, the organization supports the swift passage of FDA reform to give the agency ramped up authority and resources to deal with emerging food safety problems.

The Consumers Union statement comes just as the University of California Small Farm Program released its findings that growers who signed the LGMA in California more than doubled their spending on food safety in 2008 and 2009.

For more information on the USDA Leafy Green Marketing Agreement hearing schedule, which begins this week and runs through the end of October, visit the Agricultural Marketing Service website.

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