As part of the continued effort to increase food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be conducting targeted sampling of leafy greens. On-farm surveillance sampling of leafy greens grown in the Salinas Valley is expected to last from mid-September through October. The effort is part of the continued implementation of the Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan.
FDA intends to collect approximately 240 samples during the fall 2022 harvest season. Samples will be collected from farms and ranches that have been identified as being potentially associated with foodborne illness outbreaks based on recent traceback investigations. Based on field conditions, FDA may also collect environmental samples such as water, soil, and scat.
The agency will be collecting iceberg, leaf, and romaine lettuce directly from the field. FDA plans to collect untrimmed, whole heads of lettuce, and will not be testing trimmed, cored, wrapped, or topped-tailed lettuce. If lettuce is not available for sampling, FDA will be prioritizing the collection of spinach and other leafy greens may be collected. All samples collected will be tested for Salmonella spp. and E. coli 0157:H7 at FDA labs in California, Washington, and Colorado.
Growers will typically be notified by FDA a few days in advance of a collection visit and will coordinate with farm personnel for the harvesting of samples. FDA will also notify the farm as to the results of the testing that is conducted. While the California Department of Food and Agriculture is conducting inspections in the Salinas Valley, it is a separate action from the FDA sampling.
Along with the latest sampling of leafy greens announcement, FDA has released a summary report for a 2021 sampling assignment. Between May and November of last year, FDA collected lettuce samples from commercial coolers in the Salinas Valley. One instance of salmonella and two instances of E. coli was found out of the nearly 500 lettuce cases that were sampled.