September 7, 2022

FDA Will Conduct On-Farm Surveillance Sampling of Salinas Valley Leafy Greens Starting September 19

As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan, the agency will conduct on-farm surveillance sampling of leafy greens grown in the Salinas Valley region during FY 2022-23. Under this assignment, samples only will be collected from farms and/or ranches identified by traceback investigations in recent years as being potentially associated with an outbreak in which lettuce or leafy greens were identified as the likely or suspect food vehicle.

The assignment will begin on Sept. 19, 2022 and continue through Oct. 30, 2022. The FDA plans to collect approximately 240 product samples during this time and also may collect environmental samples (e.g., scat, soil, water) when observations deem it necessary. The target commodities will include iceberg, red and green leaf, and romaine lettuces collected directly from farms. When these commodities are not available, spinach will be prioritized and other leafy greens may be collected. The agency plans to collect whole, untrimmed heads of lettuce. Trimmed, cored, wrapped, or topped-and-tailed lettuce will not be sampled. All samples collected will be tested for Salmonella spp. and E.coli 0157:H7 at the FDA labs in Alameda and Irvine, Calif.; Bothell, Wash.; and Denver, Colo.

FDA will coordinate the sampling with the farm/grower typically a few days in advance and will work with the farm personnel to seek assistance in harvesting the samples. FDA field staff will also be prepared to harvest the product themselves.

Additional details about this assignment may be found here.

In March 2022, the FDA opted against broad sampling in the Salinas Valley, but reserved the right to reassess this approach if considered necessary.

In 2021, the FDA conducted a different leafy greens sampling assignment and is releasing a summary report of the results. As part of this assignment, the agency collected lettuce from commercial coolers in the Salinas Valley growing area in California and tested samples for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. between May and November of last year.  The report describes the agency’s detection of Salmonella enterica in one green leaf sample and STEC in two other samples. In all cases, potentially contaminated product was destroyed and follow-up inspections were conducted.

The Western Growers Science team is here to help. Please reach out to Afreen Malik at [email protected] if you have any questions. You may also find this document helpful as you consider this FDA surveillance sampling and its potential impact to your business.