High School Math and Food Safety

After reviewing the California LGMA 2014/15 Annual Report issued last month and noting the continuing decline in citations issued by auditors, I can’t help but feel even prouder to be a member of this organization. This report shows that LGMA members are getting better yet at incorporating food safety practices into the culture of our farming operations and that our commitment and actions in making food safety a top priority are further demonstrated.

Although the LGMA has been in place now for 8 years, a lot of people outside the leafy greens community still don’t understand exactly how the LGMA audit system works.  They don’t know how our LGMA audits differ from many of the private audits we go through and they don’t understand why we believe the LGMA system is the best for making our products safe.  This made me think that perhaps a great way to explain the LGMA is to compare it to the high school math class and that one teacher we can all remember who made us work really hard to earn a good grade.

We all had this teacher at some point along the way.  You know the one teacher who wasn’t happy to let the problems you missed on assignments or tests stand as uncorrected.  The one who made you go back and redo any problems you got wrong and then turn the paper back in.   That teacher wanted to make sure you knew how to do all the problems correctly – especially the ones you had got wrong. And this is exactly what the LGMA does by requiring that any audit citations get corrected.

Sure this teacher would tell you that a test is coming up so that you could prepare and study harder, but in addition to those regular tests, this teacher would also give “pop quizzes” to spot check your learning.  Like this teacher, the LGMA conducts about 5 scheduled audits and one unannounced audit each year.  Unannounced audits are very much like a pop quiz, they are designed to make sure we know the material without the advantage of knowing when the test is and  what to study.

So, here is the thing about that teacher we all remember – while he or she may not have been your favorite teacher at the time, this teacher actually taught you something.  At the end of the year, you didn’t end up with just a grade – you actually knew how to do the math, be it long-division or  finding the square root of a number. These things became engrained in your mind.  You had learned something.

So, it is with the LGMA. This system that was created in response to a terrible tragedy is working to instill knowledge about how we can farm more safely.  Because of the LGMA system, proper food safety practices are becoming ingrained in our farming systems. We are seeing continuous improvement on LGMA audit ‘tests’ and we know our members are getting better each year.  This LGMA system is what instills that “culture of food safety” we talk so much about.  Yes, it is difficult and challenging–just like trying to attain perfection for that high school math teacher. But it’s making us better.

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