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Washington, D.C. - In an effort to raise awareness that its safe to eat fresh spinach again, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) hosted a "Spinach Is Back" Congressional luncheon with a number of administration and public health officials last week.
Several federal officials, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and his wife Stephanie, and Food and Drug Administration director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Robert Brackett, were among the more than 300 congressional leaders and agency staffers who eat fresh spinach salads topped with fresh mushrooms, eggs, and assorted dressings at the event.
Rep. Farr said he thought of the idea of a "Spinach Is Back" salad bar during a recent trip to the Salinas Valley to meet with growers and processors in his district. "Despite the fact that authorities agree it is safe to eat fresh spinach, there has been less fanfare associated with spinach's return to grocers' shelves than there was about its voluntary recall in September," Farr said. "We intend to change that."
In remarks at the lunch, Secretary Johanns and FDA's Brackett reaffirmed that the E. coli scare was over and emphasizing the healthfulness of spinach.
United Fresh, the American Mushroom Institute, and the United Egg Producers helped coordinate the spinach salad bar. Taylor Farms donated the spinach, and Belair Produce of Landover, Md. coordinated staging and product delivery to the House Longworth Building where the luncheon was held.
Jim Gorny, United Fresh's s.v.p. for food safety and technology, said while "a narrow incident such as this can have devastating health impact, our industry is also redoubling our efforts to ensure that every single grower and processor is following strict best agricultural practices and strict manufacturing and handling practices."
In addition, said Gorny, "We are also working together with growers, processors, distributors, retailers and foodservice companies to ensure that we examine every step in the total supply chain to further reduce and minimize what is already very low risk. We cannot ever forget the human impact of an outbreak such as this, and all of us involved in delivering fresh, ready-to-eat foods to consumers must embrace the importance of our own personal actions in reducing the risk of this happening again."