Are Preventive Controls Finding New Favor in Food Safety Circles?

It seems that as the reality of new federal food safety laws under FSMA grows closer, there is more talk than ever about the value of preventive measures, over reliance on product testing, to assure the safety of produce.

This trend was evident at a seminar held as part of the Food Safety Summit this week in Rosemont, IL and covered by Food Safety News.   Additionally, Chipotle recently announced it has brought in as an advisor, Dr. David Acheson, former official of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to a Reuter’s news story, Acheson was critical of the enhanced ingredient testing which was one of the Chipotle’s initial responses to its recent spate of outbreaks.

“I’m not a believer that you can test your way to safety”

-Dr. David Acheson

Acheson further explained that the focus should be on improving food sourcing and handling practices, including how suppliers are approved and how the company itself stores, handles and prepares food.  The speculation is that Chipotle’s new focus will likely be on preventive controls and less on food testing.

This approach is similar to the way in which the LGMA food safety practices were developed nearly 10 years ago.  The LGMA program is designed to prevent pathogens from contaminating leafy greens in the field.  The science-based food safety practices that make up the LGMA’s mandatory government audit checklist have been updated 12 times since they were initially created to ensure they continue to be based on the best available science.

The scientists and food safety experts who developed the LGMA food safety practices took the position that implementing verified, science-based preventive practices on the farm was the best way to prevent pathogens from contaminating finished product. As a result, the LGMA does not require product testing (members are, however, required to test, for example, irrigation water, compost and wash water in knife cleaning buckets). Requirements under FSMA’s Produce Rule are also designed to prevent pathogens from contaminating product to begin with and are very similar to what is required by the LGMA.

Given Chipotle’s apparent new focus on preventive controls, the company should be reassured to know that LGMA members are committed to this same approach. Further, all LGMA members are required to be in 100 percent compliance with the stringent food safety practices of the LGMA. This fact is verified by mandatory, independent government audit.

Other foodservice chains have recognized the value of the LGMA.  In an interview with Chik-Fil-A’s Manager of Supply Chain Safety, Steven Lyon, he explains the chain requires all leafy greens suppliers be certified by the LGMA. A fact that, as Steven explains, “helps him sleep well at night.” You can watch the interview here and learn more about the LGMA food safety practices here.

A list of certified LGMA members who regularly practice preventive controls in their fields can be found here.

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