SALINAS, Calif. (AP) -- Government regulators never acted on calls for stepped-up inspections of leafy greens after last year's deadly E. coli spinach outbreak, leaving the safety of America's salads to a patchwork of largely unenforceable rules and the industry itself, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The regulations governing farms in this central California region known as the nation's "Salad Bowl" remain much as they were when bacteria from a cattle ranch infected spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200.
AP's review of data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act found that federal officials inspect companies growing and processing salad greens an average of just once every 3.9 years. Some proposals in Congress would require such inspections at least four times a year.
In California, which grows three-quarters of the nation's greens, processors created a new inspection system but with voluntary guidelines that were unable to keep bagged spinach tainted with salmonella from reaching grocery shelves last month.
Once again, this is what happens when you put people in power who don't believe the government has any warrant to enforce fair play or safety standards in the marketplace. People die so that companies can keep those pesky regulations from cutting into their bottom line.