California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Announces Vote for Mandating Risk-Based Pre-Harvest Testing; Tim York and John D'Arrigo Discuss
SALINAS, CA - On July 8, 2021, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) Board voted to mandate pre-harvest testing for leafy greens grown in fields where elevated risk factors are present. With this new action, risk-based pre-harvest testing will officially be part of the LGMA’s government audits.
“The Board’s decision is an important step in advancing the safety of lettuce and leafy greens,” said Tim York, Chief Executive Officer. “New testing protocols are predicted to provide a 95 percent chance of finding a pathogen in the field, even if only 1 percent of the crop is contaminated.”
As part of the new mandate, LGMA will now be requiring members in its food safety program to assess each of their fields to determine if certain risks exist, such as proximity to animals. For fields that meet these criteria, LGMA members will be required to collect product samples and test them to determine if pathogens are present.
Updates are now being finalized to the LGMA Food Safety Practices, or metrics. The updates will also include the requirement that growers perform what’s called a ‘root cause analysis’ if any test comes back positive for E. coli or salmonella.
“These new testing protocols coupled with a concerted effort to gather information on how the field was contaminated will help us find solutions to prevent future outbreaks,” York continued. “We encourage our members to begin familiarizing themselves with requirements to assess risk factors and the proposed testing methodology.”
Working in conjunction with food safety researcher Dr. Trevor Suslow and Western Growers, expanded pre-harvest product sampling and testing protocols are currently being finalized to provide the industry with a standardized methodology. According to the release, the new protocols for fields with elevated risk call for collecting 60 samples totaling a minimum of 1,500 grams per acre. Testing must be done four to seven days prior to harvest.
“This is absolutely the right thing for the LGMA and for consumers,” said John D’Arrigo of D’Arrigo Brothers, a grower-packer-shipper and member of the LGMA Board. “This action addresses demands of government agencies and our retail and foodservice customers who are looking for us to provide additional safety assurances that protect the public. That is exactly what this pre-harvest testing requirement will do.”
Once the LGMA Board adopts the new food safety requirements and finalizes testing protocols, projected to happen in August, members will officially be required to comply, explained York in the release. LGMA government audits will begin verifying these practices in December.
“The LGMA Board understands the rapid development of these new requirements comes with a burden on individual companies to implement the changes,” said York. “We will be offering numerous resources and training to assist members in adopting these practices on their farms. We thank all our members for their continued commitment to improving the safety of lettuce and leafy greens.”
How will our industry continue to adapt and grow? AndNowUKnow will report.