As Romaine Outbreak is Declared Over, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Steps Up Efforts to Improve Safety
SACRAMENTO, CA - The industry can breathe easy again, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently declared that the E. coli outbreaks associated with the Salinas, CA, region are over. Both of these agencies have lifted the consumer advisory.
At the front lines of this event were countless leafy greens farmers working to prevent future outbreaks. Alongside the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), farmers like Steve Church, Owner of Church Brothers Farms, know the importance of prevention.
“These outbreaks are devastating to our industry as well as to consumers, and they absolutely must stop,” stated Church, who is also a member of the Board of the California LGMA.
According to a press release, a recent meeting of the LGMA brought together several leaders from the California leafy greens community, who all agreed that it is the industry’s responsibility to strengthen its mandatory food safety practices.
“The industry is enforcing upon themselves even more stringent food safety requirements than were previously in place through the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of LGMA. “The LGMA is currently conducting a systematic overhaul of the food safety practices included in our program. We’re working with our industry partner Western Growers to conduct an open, transparent review of the required food safety practices under the LGMA. We will be bringing in outside expertise so that we can incorporate new knowledge and research.”
Jan Berk, COO of San Miguel Produce and Vice-Chairman of LGMA, added, “The leafy greens community is extremely motivated to get to the bottom of this and we want to be more involved. The FDA investigators are not farmers. They don’t know what’s going on in our fields the way we do. We are the ones who need to fix this.”
“We have to take control of our own destiny,” stated Dan Sutton, a leafy greens producer who serves as Chairman of the LGMA. “The LGMA exits to establish food safety standards for farming leafy greens. We need a focused industry-wide effort to figure out what’s happening in the environment where we farm. The members of the LGMA are committed to making real changes to improve the safety of our product.”
A special meeting hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is being planned for February 4, 2020, in Salinas, in which growers will participate in a discussion about research opportunities available through a broad study that will monitor environmental conditions in California that may be contributing to outbreaks.
“Our goal is to work in conjunction with leafy greens growers and with the U.S. FDA to resolve the problems that continue to impact romaine,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The LGMA and the entire leafy greens industry has been extremely cooperative in these efforts. We all want to see an end to these outbreaks so that consumers can have confidence in eating leafy greens. We owe this to our consumers and to our growers.”
Horsfall concluded, “The benefit of the LGMA system is that when we make changes to our requirements, they are implemented on thousands of farms that produce over 90 percent of leafy greens grown in the U.S. Government auditors will then verify growers are following the new practices through mandatory government audits. No other food safety program in the world has this capability.”
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