A number of consumer and food safety groups penned a 6-page letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking that the agency do more to help industry keep leafy greens safe.

The letter, addressed to Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, requests the agency to initiate “requirements for comprehensive and rapid traceability of produce, including leafy greens” within 6 months. The groups are asking FDA to “implement the long overdue directive laid out by Congress in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requiring the agency to issue a proposed rule establishing recordkeeping requirements for high-risk foods.” The groups believe that these actions will lead to faster traceability in outbreak investigations and quicker recall announcements. Finally, the groups are requesting immediate access to current best practices and existing requirements related to enhancing traceability for leafy greens.

The letter is signed by the following consumer and food safety groups:

  • The Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Consumer Federation of America
  • Consumers Union
  • Food & Water Watch
  • National Consumers League
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • STOP Foodborne Illness
  • Trust for America’s Health

Some parts of the letter make no qualms about putting FDA on the spot regarding the agency’s ability—or lack thereof—to simply trace a food back to its origin:

“Current technology makes it possible for retailers to track and trace products with extraordinary speed and accuracy. Retailers using advanced technology, such as blockchain, now report they can identify the origin of certain produce shipments in as little as 2.2 seconds. Given these advances, it is no longer acceptable that the FDA has no means to swiftly determine where a bag of lettuce was grown or packaged.”

In the letter, the groups cite the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce as the impetus for their requests. Nearly 2 months after it was publicly announced, the outbreak is still under investigation and a farm source has yet to be identified. According to FDA’s last update dated May 16, 172 have been reported sick in 32 states in connection to the contaminated romaine lettuce. Seventy-five people have been hospitalized and one person has died.

See the letter submitted to FDA in its entirety on ConsumersUnion.org.

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