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Brand New Research into Food Safety in the Fields

AAEA Annual Meeting session highlights new measures taken since deadly E. coli outbreak

A major foodborne illness outbreak traced back to California spinach contaminated with E. coli killed three people and made 204 others sick across the country in 2006.  The outbreak led to a revolution in food safety in the produce industry.

That led to the “California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement”, in which voluntary participants had to follow mandatory food safety practices. 

“That was a major event and afterwards some people in the produce industry started to advocate for Federal regulation of food safety to make sure something like that didn’t happen again,” says Linda Calvin of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service. 

In 2011 the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law. The FSMA regulates, for the first time, food safety practices at the farm level.  These regulations will go into effect for produce growers next year.

What can economists say about the possible impact of FSMA? Calvin, along with colleagues Gregory Astill, Travis Minor, and Suzanne Thornsbury of USDA-ERS, will lead a discussion on this critical topic at the 2017 AAEA Annual Meeting.

Speakers will present new, unpublished results from research into what food safety practices fruit growers, vegetable growers, and post-harvest operations currently have in place and what growers will have to do to comply with FSMA. 

“There are (food safety) concerns at each step of the food supply chain,” Astill said, “but if something happens in the field it has the potential to have a broader impact as food goes nationwide. These preliminary survey results provide a great opportunity to see generally what people in the produce industry are doing when it comes to food safety.”

This session will be held Monday, July 31, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. For more information, or if you are interested in setting up an interview, please contact Jay Saunders in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 20 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices. To learn more, visit

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