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State and Agribusiness to Debate E. Coli Safety Guidelines

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

California lawmakers and the state's agriculture industry will face off in Sacramento on Tuesday. A state Senate committee will hold a hearing on a number of bills designed to prevent E. coli outbreaks. E. coli infections can be caused by eating contaminated food. KPBS reporter Kenny Goldberg has the story.

The three bills cover a variety of approaches aimed at improving food safety. These include authorizing the state to set up an inspection and quarantine program of leafy vegetables. California spinach and lettuce were linked to E. coli outbreaks last year that sickened more than 300 people nationwide.

In response, California growers will soon adopt a new set of voluntary guidelines. The proposed system would set up new standards for irrigation water, soil, and worker sanitation. These would apply to the nearly 7,000 California farms that grow produce like lettuce and spinach.

But consumer advocates say self-regulation isn't good enough. They argue the state needs to establish strict standards and oversight. Kenny Goldberg, KPBS News.

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