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USDA mulls new food safety rules for spinach

/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal food safety officials plan to hold public hearings about a proposal that backers say will help keep bacteria-tainted spinach and lettuce from reaching grocery shelves.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to gauge public support for an industry proposal that would enforce standards for producing, handling and inspecting leafy greens nationwide.

The proposed voluntary guidelines are an attempt to prevent another disaster like the massive E. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006. That outbreak killed three people, sickened 200 and cost the industry $80 million in lost sales.

Some consumers groups have criticized the plan. They say it includes some elements that could force smaller growers out of business.