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Spinach Crisis,
One Year Later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Great Spinach Crisis of 2006. The consumer media is filled with the predictable follow-up stories. The good ones have titles such as, A Year After Spinach Scare, Growers Strive To Keep Produce Safe. The not so good ones have titles such as, U.S. Failed To Boost Produce Inspections.

We discuss what the industry is doing about food safety every day and so don’t necessarily think that we have to do a recap today.

MUCH HAS BEEN DONE. Not only the California Leafy Greens Agreement — although that is most prominent — but in many commodities and in many places, food safety has a higher profile and importance than it had a year ago. New industry institutions such as the Center for Produce Safety have been established.

THINGS ARE HAPPENING. Just yesterday, Arizona had a public hearing on creating its own Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. It seems likely to happen as it is all the same people who support it in Salinas. That would cover about 90% of the nation’s leafy greens production and almost all of the nationally distributed product.

THERE ARE REAL ISSUES. Our recent report on product testing touched a real nerve. And the Metz Fresh recall raised real questions as to what our responsibility is to consumers.

We’ll be dealing with the spinach crisis and its aftermath next week and for many weeks to come.

Today, we think the biggest risk for the industry is that as the spinach crisis recedes in time, it may recede in memory. And, unfortunately, humans tend to be motivated by threats they perceive as imminent.

Just over a year ago, we ran a piece entitled, A Look At The Faces, which profiled the two people who were known at the time to have died as a result of eating our industry’s product.

In the end there were three confirmed deaths. Perhaps the best way to honor their deaths is to keep their faces in our mind’s eye, that our resolution to produce safe food should never falter. So, on this one-year anniversary of a very sad chapter in the history of a very old industry, we remember…

Marion Graff
77 years old
Kyle Allgood
2 years old

Betty Howard
83 years old

We can do them no honor greater than to assure that their deaths were not in vain. It is only our actions in taking the steps necessary to prevent this from happening again that can give meaning to their deaths.

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