California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Updates Food Safety Practices
SACRAMENTO, CA - As the current pandemic continues to change the face of the produce industry, buy-side and supply-side companies are having to roll with the punches, making important updates amid the shifting tides. The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board (LGMA) voted last week to accept several new updates to required food safety practices to help leafy green growers.
“Over 50 recommended changes were unanimously approved by the Board to strengthen food safety requirements for the production of leafy greens in the areas of Farm Water Use and Field/Equipment Sanitation,” explained Scott Horsfall, CEO. “These are in addition to several significant changes made by the LGMA less than a year ago.”
Before officially updating its agreed upon practices, LGMA conducts a thorough review of its mandatory food safety measures and how they hold up with ongoing events in the industry. According to a press release, the most recent updates were amended following a string of recent outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“A series of Subcommittees has been reviewing the LGMA’s required food safety practices in all areas,” said Horsfall. “The Subcommittees for Water Use and Field/Equipment Sanitation met numerous times in recent months to consider new research, examine findings from outbreak investigations, and gather input from food safety experts and the public before making recommendations to the full LGMA Board last week. This process is being facilitated by Western Growers as part of an open, transparent process.”
Following the changes made to its required food safety practices, LGMA is taking the necessary measures to educate members on how to comply with the new regulations. Although many of the over 50 changes were updates to existing practices, there were several new items that were passed, including:
- Adoption of new requirements that ensure the safety of water used during overhead application of pesticides and crop protection materials. This update is similar to changes approved by the LGMA last year requiring that any water from open sources—such as a canal or reservoir—applied via overhead application must be treated to eliminate pathogens during the previous 21 days before harvest
- Approved enhancements to monitoring requirements for water used in farming leafy greens to ensure that regular water quality tests are conducted and that samples are collected throughout the irrigation systems used in leafy greens fields
- Added language to minimize the risk of water applied via furrow irrigation from coming into contact with any edible portion of the leafy greens plant
- Updated best practices for cleaning harvest equipment, containers, tools, and bathroom facilities in and near leafy greens fields
- New language designed to prevent the cut end of leafy greens product from coming into contact with the ground during harvest
“The LGMA is committed to strengthening required food safety practices throughout our processes,” said Dan Sutton, Chairman and a leafy greens farmer. “We are doing everything possible on our farms to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks.”
Following the California LGMA’s updates, the LGMA of Arizona amended its practices to be virtually the same, ensuring a uniform standard of food safety across state lines.
“California and Arizona produce approximately 90 percent of the leafy greens grown in the U.S.,” said Horsfall. “The LGMA programs ensure a unified set of food safety practices based on the latest science are being followed on leafy greens farms in these two states.”
All approved updates are now being forwarded to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to be incorporated into all upcoming food safety checklists that are used by government auditors. Audits will help guarantee that all new practices are being followed on leafy greens farms.
As the need to rexamine regulations continues to grow with ongoing challenges, LGMA already has new updates in the works, but remains grateful to industry members who are taking the changes in stride.
“Additional updates are forthcoming in the areas of Soil Amendments/Inputs and Adjacent Land as the Subcommittees assigned to these topic areas are currently meeting to review existing practices. These Subcommittees will be making their recommendations to the LGMA Board in the near future,” explained Horsfall. “We are very grateful to the industry members and scientists who are working diligently as part of the LGMA Subcommittee process to help improve the safety of leafy greens.”
While growers and associations continue to make quick changes to accommodate the turning tides of our current world, LGMA is on the forefront, giving everyone piece of mind that food safety will remain a top priority as it always has been. For the latest updates on new practices across the industry, keep reading AndNowUKnow.