Illnesses linked to leafy greens on the rise, study
vegetables have increased faster than rates of consumption,
indicating that contamination during production and processing is
on the up.
A new study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a lack of food safety measures in processing plants for products such as salad of spinach. For the study, CDC said it analysed 10,000 foodborne diseases reported between 1973 and 2006. According to CDC, the proportion of all foodborne disease outbreaks from leafy greens increased 60 per cent in the US between 1996 and 2005, but consumption of these products increased only nine per cent. Similarly, occurrence of these illnesses increased 60 per cent between 1986 and 1995, while consumption went up only 17 per cent, the CDC said. "The proportion of outbreaks due to leafy greens has increased beyond what can be explained by increased consumption," said CDC spokesperson Michael Lynch. He added that the majority of these cases - 60 per cent - were linked to norovirus, a from of gastroenteritis, while ten per cent were linked to salmonella and nine to per cent to E. coli. Lynch therefore urged manufacturers to be much more vigilant in their health and safety procedures. "Contamination can occur anywhere along the chain from the farm to the table, Lynch said. "Efforts by local, state and federal agencies to control leafy green outbreaks should span from the point of harvest to the point of preparation." The US leafy green industry has already seen some massive contamination problems, especially an E. coli outbreak in Spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200 in September 2006. Industry and regulators have, however, made some steps to eliminate the problem, and in 2006 the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) called for salad and vegetable processors to implement the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system throughout their supply chains. HACCP is a set of international safety standard designed to eliminate all unsafe microbial, chemical and physical hazards. HACCP is meant as a complement to the FDA's Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations for food. Specifically, these regulations deal with the production and harvesting of fresh produce and provide recommendations for fresh-cut processing, including procedures relating to personnel health and hygiene, training, building and equipment, and sanitation operations. It also deals with fresh-cut produce production and processing controls from product specification to packaging, storage and transport.