E. Coli in Salinas, the Sequel

The Salinas Californian has just reported that some of the lettuce in the Dole salad mix that recently tested positive for E. coli has been traced back to the Salinas Valley, the world’s salad bowl and the home of last year’s spinach E. coli madness. In response to that outbreak, the lettuce companies established additional regulations, which are far tougher than those imposed by the government, but as a California state senator pointed out, this new contamination was discovered not by the industry but by—somewhat comically—the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

No one really knows how E. coli is getting into triple-washed, microbreatheable-packaged processed salad greens. And this week Marketplace aired a report on what Fresh Express, the country’s biggest packaged salad company, is doing to prevent it from happening again. California regulations call for a 30-foot break between leafy greens and grazing cattle; Fresh Express, which is understandably skittish after last year, requires an 800-foot buffer. But the company’s also pressuring its suppliers to eliminate as much wildlife as possible—which appears to mean almost any wildlife at all:

Christina Fisher with the Nature Conservancy says Fresh Express has even told farmers it doesn’t want to see any frogs in their fields. She says Fresh Express has so much market share, farmers have little choice but to do whatever it says.

Meanwhile, the company’s vice president for manufacturing says, in a brilliant bit of misdirection, that “he avoids buying anything but prewashed salad. He says he doesn’t want to eat a head of lettuce that other shoppers have held up to their noses in the produce aisle.” Ah. Yes. Those shoppers with their fatal noses.

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