CALIFORNIA: Administration seeks to boost food safety efforts
Posted: May 15th, 2009 - 8:33am
WASHINGTON -- Food safety efforts are accelerating across many fronts after repeated finds of tainted California crops.
The Obama administration wants to add hundreds of new inspectors. Some lawmakers want to shift food safety responsibilities among different agencies. And soon, California lettuce and spinach producers could extend their self-imposed safety standards nationwide.
"The idea is to get us all under one umbrella, so everybody is doing the same thing," Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the California Leafy Green Products organization, said Thursday. "Right now, we're getting a patchwork quilt of programs."
California's leafy green industry established the Sacramento-based marketing order in 2007, after at least three people died and several hundred fell ill upon eating contaminated spinach. Though voluntary, the marketing order covers nearly all the leafy greens commercially grown in the state.
The 118 member companies of California Leafy Green Products provide the annual budget of roughly $3 million. They agree to meet certain safety practices and to undergo required safety audits.
The idea is about to go nationwide.
The Agriculture Department later this month anticipates receiving a formal proposal for a national leafy greens agreement. If approved, the national program would apply the California growers' self-governance model to every state. It also would cover imports.