Better safe than recalled

Departments - Editor’s Letter

January 22, 2019

Karen E. Varga, Editor

Food safety recalls have become a constant in the fresh produce industry over the past several years. While the general public may hone in more on meat recalls (especially beef recalls) because of their frequency, recent produce recalls have garnered increased attention. It’s not necessarily that there are more recalls due to foodborne illnesses and contamination than before, but they’re being detected and addressed quicker — and more publicly due in part to social media and advancing technology. Romaine lettuce was recalled because of E. coli contamination multiple times in 2018, including two outbreaks that infected consumers between March and June, and again in October and November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even though greenhouse-grown romaine wasn’t the culprit in the most recent recall, growers mustn’t become complacent about their food safety practices. Greenhouse production is, in general, much less prone to food safety problems than field growing, but there is still potential for contamination — and serious repercussions.

In this month’s cover story, we’re taking a proactive approach, and looking at the steps you can take to ensure your greenhouse is a clean, food-safe setting, and avoid a recall. Lisa Lupo, food safety expert and editor of sister publication Quality Assurance & Food Safety (QA) magazine, shares her insights as well as those of food safety specialists from The Ohio State University and Virginia Tech here.

However, as greenhouse growers, you have a marketing advantage — in late November 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb emphasized the fact that greenhouse-grown romaine was not involved in the most recent outbreak. The FDA also announced a voluntary labeling agreement for romaine lettuce growers that denotes the product’s harvest date and location, which could be another opportunity to emphasize its greenhouse origins. Your produce has become more valuable and more trustworthy in the eyes of the FDA, and potentially the consumer. In her Edible Insights column, Leslie Halleck examines how greenhouse growers might benefit from the new voluntary labeling agreement.

If you’ve considered incorporating lighting into your operation, you won’t want to miss the 2019 Lighting Guide. In it, we bring you some of the latest research in lettuce, tomato and cucumber crops, and profile a Cleveland grower whose purple lights have caught the collective eye of the surrounding community. Check it out starting here. | (216) 393-0290

Twitter: @Karen_GIE