Denver>>>Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), a strong advocate for safe and healthy food, is concerned that the E. coli bacteria breakouts linked to spinach produced in the Salinas Valley, Calif., is having an undue negative impact on spinach produced in Colorado.
RMFU believes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is wise in acting strongly to address the problem identified by the product produced in Calif. The FDA recommendation to restaurants and food service companies to pull all spinach, bagged or wrapped, is going to devastate Colorado growers who have not been identified as contributors to the problem.
“We believe Colorado’s Governor should work with the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to find and remove the contaminated product said Bob Mailander,” RMFU Cooperative Development Center director. “However, they should also insist that local products, not affiliated with the outbreak, be allowed into the market immediately.” There is strong evidence that consumers will continue to buy fresh, locally grown products from growers they know and are sure of the product’s origin. RMFU growers have recently had great success selling their products at local markets and food stands.
“Spinach growers renting on my farms have had strong sales this past week at the farmers market here in Boulder,” said John Ellis, Ellis Farms, Boulder, Colo. “Consumers who want fresh, locally grown spinach are not discouraged from buying.”
RMFU is concerned that the nation’s focus towards highly centralized food processing systems is damaging to healthy food production. Large scale food processing lends itself to this type of failure demonstrated by the recent breakout.
“When 69 percent of the (spinach) crop comes from one locality and large amounts of waste from industrial animal production in the adjoining region possibly contributing to the contamination of the region’s water resources, we should expect these kinds of problems,” said John Stencel, RMFU president. “Why should local growers be penalized for the failure of the large, industrial producers? I am not sure that the concentration in the food industry is cost effective or healthy.”
RMFU believes the policy of nationwide food recalls and bans should be resisted. New procedures should be developed to address this type of situation. RMFU supports the FDA’s urging of changes in growing and production practices to help producers to continue to provide safe and healthy food.
“California spinach growers have the problem of not being able to control the processing all the way through production,” said Lewis Grant, Grant Family Farms, Wellington, Colo. “Colorado spinach farmers do their processing and packaging on each farm. The long term fix is to get better practices for healthier production. The short term solution is to get Colorado spinach back in the market.”