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Chill those veggies, and bugs in the soil

On the more serious side of microbiology, “People don’t pay enough attention to refrigeration, and that’s absolutely critical with the fresh-cut produce,” food microbiologist Linda Harris tells USA Today in a follow-up article on spinach contamination with E. coli 0157.

The story also reports that in 2001, Harris and colleagues found that another food-poisoning culprit, Salmonella, could survive and thrive in the soil of almond orchards. The bug was previously thought to live only a few days outside an animal’s gut.

Meanwhile, the Western Grower’s Association, California’s largest produce trade group, is calling for new federal standards and inspections of growers, paid for by the farmers themselves. They may have no choice: the Bee reports a trade magazine as saying that supermarkets and wholesalers are demanding tougher safety standards to be in place by mid-December.

But UC Davis extension specialist Trevor Suslow tells the Bee that there is no guarantee that new regulations would really improve food safety.

Meanwhile, Rob Atwill, extension veterinarian at the School of Veterinary Medicine’s field station in Tulare and Robert Mandrell of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are launching a project to track sources of E. coli 0157 in the Central Valley. The project was designed before the September outbreak.

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