The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will be refocusing lettuce sampling efforts in Yuma County, Arizona. Romaine lettuce samples will be collected from commercial coolers during the current harvest season. Yuma County farmer John Boelts said that the industry has been testing diligently prior to the announcement from FDA.
“I think laypeople when they hear about ‘oh, the government’s going to go do a sampling survey’ they think that may be the first time that something is sampled. But in reality, just about every fresh produce shipper is sampling just about every acre before it’s harvested and many of them have other protocols especially if they’re doing the processing of that product,” said Boelts. “Sampling is something that our industry is very comfortable with.”
FDA’s lettuce sampling announcement came with some updates compared to previous efforts. Other federal sampling campaigns have created difficulties for industry members due to the delay in acquiring lab results. Shipping samples to out-of-state facilities meant that results could take upwards of a week to come back. FDA will now be working with the local lab in Yuma for the upcoming season and expects to receive test results within 24 hours. “These local labs are pulling samples and processing literally thousands and thousands of samples a day. So that’s not anything new by any means. So, it should go much more speedily and improve things for everybody,” Boelts explained.
The FDA lettuce sampling is being conducted as part of ongoing work with industry stakeholders in the area to implement the Leafy Greens Action Plan. Although FDA testing may be a bit more in-depth, Boelts said there’s still no comparison to the industry’s approach to sampling. “They’re talking about pulling 500 samples over the next two and a half to three months and we’re pulling hundreds if not thousands of samples a day.”