Members of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement have backed a pre-harvest testing protocol aimed at preventing foodborne illness outbreaks commonly associated with production near animals.

The guidance offers varied levels of testing to take place based on the proximity and size of the animal production sites or grazing lands near where the leafy greens are grown. The new framework recommends pre-harvest testing “on product grown on fields where … elevated risk factors are present.”

“We are endorsing pre-harvest testing in direct response to FDA’s recent report on E. coli outbreaks associated with lettuce in 2020, which identified the recurring E. coli strain implicated in this outbreak to be a reasonably foreseeable hazard,” Dan Sutton, the LGMA chair, said in a statement. “We want to send a clear message to FDA that our industry is, in fact, taking additional measures to prevent outbreaks.”

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Under the protocol, for instance, a concentrated animal feeding operation with more than 80,000 animals must be a minimum of 1 mile from the leafy green production, and testing will occur prior to harvest if the facility is less than two miles from the leafy green field, if there is an opportunity for water runoff through or from the CAFO to irrigation water sources, prevailing winds could potentially carry contaminants, or there is a filth fly infestation. The protocol adjusts its risk factors based on CAFO size and also includes recommendations if the fields are near grazing lands or hobby farms with noncommercial livestock where water runoff and soil leaching is a possibility.

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