November 2, 2023

WG and USDA Host Cadmium Food Safety Workshop in Salinas

USDA convened a pilot workshop over three days to facilitate collaboration between industry, government, and academia to benefit food safety and public health.

The event, which included about 40 participants, consisted of field tours, a discussion on the health impacts of cadmium, the importance of spinach and carrots to the diet, current production practices in California and Arizona, and a review of research on factors that influence crop uptake of cadmium. The group engaged in open dialogue, acknowledging the need to achieve a common understanding of the challenges as well as strengthening trust between various stakeholders to find solutions together.

The pilot focused on the production of two commodities (spinach and carrots) in two states (California and Arizona) and was aimed at developing a continuous improvement plan for mitigating cadmium, an element of concern.

The group left the workshop with a commitment to reconvene virtually within the next 2 months to report on progress in several areas identified for future action, including the potential for a data trust, industry-focused review of current knowledge and mitigations, opportunities to formalize the collaboration, and improve transparency and communication.

“Industry and regulators worked to determine options that promote continuous improvement by the industry while encouraging the consumption of healthy vegetables,” said Dr. De Ann Davis, SVP, Western Growers, who helped organize the workshop. “The participation by FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, Jim Jones, along with others from various parts of the agency sent a strong signal that FDA is committed to continued collaboration.”

“We valued our conversations with growers from California and Arizona as it provided us with valuable perspectives and ideas and we are very thankful to them for their willingness to engage with us on some tough topics related to heavy metals in the food supply,” said Dr. Conrad Choiniere, Director, Office of Analytics and Outreach, FDA. Other workshop organizers included representatives of the state departments of agriculture for California and Arizona, California and Arizona Leafy Green Marketing Agreements, FDA, and USDA.

“USDA was pleased to serve in a convening role for this pilot and hope that this serves as a model for collaboration on other topics,” said Dr. Melanie Abley, USDA Office of the Chief Scientist. “The balance of presentations, tours, and discussions effectively built trust so that the group could align on common goals, ensuring Americans have consistent access to safe, nutritious, affordable food essential to health.”