The recent recall and outbreak of E. coli-contaminated Dole Hearts Delight bagged salad mix underscores the problems in the bagged, processed leafy green industry, an alliance of farmers said today.

"This shows that the industry rules are not preventing E. coli 0157:H7 recalls or outbreaks in fresh-cut, processed salad," said Judith Redmond, Board President of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and partner at Full Belly Farm in Yolo County, Calif. "The industry's measures are ineffective because we don't know exactly how E. coli 0157:H7 is spreading. What we do know is that these recalls and outbreaks are not occurring in traditional, fresh leafy greens. The industry needs to focus their rules on the problem in processed salad, not on traditional leafy greens."

An analysis by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) of data provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, shows that since 1999, 80 percent of E. coli 0157:H7 outbreaks on leafy greens in California have been traced to processed, bagged salad. The data also reveals that 98.5 percent of the reported illnesses were traced to processed greens. Centralized washing and packaging of mixed produce from different farms increases risks of cross-contamination. Pre-cut salads are then sealed in plastic bags, which may create an ideal environment for bacterial growth if not kept cold at all times.

The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, which was written by and for large growers in the industry, is an attempt by the industry to self-regulate, even though these practices were already in place on most large farms that grow for the processed, bagged salad industry. While more than 95 percent of growers are currently encompassed by the LGMA, the effort to stem the spread of E. coli 0157:H7 should focus on the processing and bagging industry.

The Community Alliance with Family Farmers is the result of efforts by both farmers and urban activists working together for almost 30 years. CAFF's mission is to build a movement of rural and urban people to foster family-scale agriculture that cares for the land, sustains local economies and promotes social justice.