Coronavirus, leafy greens, and cannabis are the latest hot topics in food safety news. A zoonotic virus that seems to spread from person to person, coronavirus could potentially be linked to a food market in China. Meanwhile, the romaine lettuce outbreak may be over, but leafy greens still present a food safety risk, which is why research from multiple angles is ongoing. The cannabis industry is booming, but what about the growers that were busted before it was legal? One food safety organization wants to help.
Caution Around COVID-19
The 2019 novel coronavirus is a hot topic in all circles these days, including the food safety industry. Although the source of the outbreak remains unknown, one possibility is a seafood and animal market in Wuhan City where multiple patients visited. Samples from the market tested positive for the virus, and it has since been closed for sanitation. WHO is also recommending the standard prevention protocols for consumers, including hand washing, thoroughly cooking food, and taking measures to avoid cross-contamination.
Leafy Greens Back in the News
Although the romaine lettuce outbreak has been officially declared over, leafy greens are not yet off the hook. A national restaurant chain is under investigation in at least two states for the possibility of E. coli in lettuce. Eleven patients in four states reported illness in November, and it is believed that there is no longer a risk to other consumers. Although the outbreak in itself may not be a serious issue, there is concern that it wasn’t reported sooner. To the dismay of consumers and the media, this is the second known incidence of illness related to leafy greens not being made public until after there was no risk.
Leafy Greens Subject of Academic and Industry Research
Not surprisingly, with so many issues related to leafy greens in recent years, they are now the subject of research projects to make them safer for consumers. The USDA contributed $2.7 million to University of Michigan for research on techniques for growing these crops indoors. The four-year, multi-university study aims to evaluate the economic viability of vertically farming leafy greens to reduce the use of pesticides, use water and nutrients more efficiently, and allow for year-round indoor production. On the industry side, Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements (LGMAs) in California and Arizona are working hard to enhance existing food safety practices among farmers of leafy greens. Stricter standards were implemented in spring 2019, and government audits will confirm that new requirements are put into effect.
Free Food Safety Training for Former Cannabis Prisoners
SCS Global Services, a food safety training and certification organization, is donating food safety classes to people who were incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses. Participants can choose from a variety of food safety courses, including one titled GMP and HACCP Training for Cannabis Manufacturing. The organization has teamed up with the Last Prisoner Project to provide new opportunities for people who spent time in jail for cannabis offenses before it was legalized. The food safety courses exceed most state requirements for cannabis production and will also provide potential employment pathways in other food-related industries.
Achieving Food Safety Requires Multiple Approaches
All of these stories are examples of just how complicated food safety really is. Legislation, academic research, industry participation, and education all play roles in keeping consumers healthy. Farms and food processing facilities are just two pieces of the puzzle, but they are critical ones, which is why it is so important to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of outbreaks. If you’d like to learn more about how you can make your facility safer, contact us for a free consultation.