FDA issues voluntary produce-safety guidelines

If you’ve shied away from spinach since last year’s widespread E. coli outbreak, this should give you comfort: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued voluntary guidelines this week to help keep fresh-cut produce safe. What, the “voluntary” part gives you pause? Pshaw. Pointing out that voluntary guidelines for production of sprouts reduced contamination during the 1990s, FDA officials say the “if you wanna” approach can work and is, in fact, more flexible and adjustable than mandatory regulations. Linda Halley, general manager of an organic farm in California, agrees: “Mandating inspections or certifications for producers of raw product … would be difficult to enforce and overly burdensome on the small producer.” But some activists say FDA’s solution is hogwash. “What we have now is too little, too late,” says Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “and not sufficient to actually prevent further outbreaks from occurring.” Mmm, who’s hungry?