California National alarm over whether it's safe to eat lettuce and spinach has grown so great that federal officials have set a public hearing Tuesday in Oakland, Calif., to map out the government's response.
The Food and Drug Administration - responsible for making sure the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables are safe to eat - has come under fire in recent months after three back-to-back E. coli outbreaks last fall and winter sickened 350 people and killed three.
The outbreaks were traced to California's Salinas Valley - one to bagged spinach, two to lettuce. A report on the spinach outbreak in September is expected to be released soon by the FDA and California's Department of Health Services.
Dr. Kevin Reilly, deputy director of prevention services for the state Department of Health Services, said this is the first time the two agencies have worked together on such a large investigation.
"The outbreaks were so big and so widespread," Reilly said, that the two agencies decided to investigate together.
While that report is being finalized, Tuesday's hearing will be the first of two scheduled by the FDA where federal officials are bound to get an earful of public concerns about their food-safety monitoring efforts.