California LGMA Updates Food Safety Practices Prior to the Desert Growing Season
On September 28th the California LGMA Advisory Board voted to update the Food Safety Practices/Metrics that all LGMA members are required to follow. The changes come after an outbreak this spring that was traced to Romaine lettuce grown in the Desert region near Yuma, Arizona. The timing for these changes is notable as it precedes the annual lettuce industry transition from the Central Coast of California to the Desert growing regions in Yuma, Arizona and California’s Imperial Valley.
Subject-Matter Experts Collaborate for Change
The changes were suggested by the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force that was created in response to the outbreak earlier this year. Task Force members include:
- Food safety scientists and researchers
- Leafy greens growers and shippers
- FDA and CDC representatives
- California and Arizona departments of agriculture
- Foodservice and retail businesses
- Consumer advocacy groups like STOP Foodborne Illness and the Pew Charitable Trust
Members of the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force spent two months of examining potential causes for the 2018 E. coli outbreak. Although reports from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and Center for Disease Control and Prevention provided some insight, the Task Force invested thousands of hours conducting additional investigative research to address all scenarios that may have led to the E.coli outbreak. For a summary of the Leafy Greens Task Force membership, process and recommendations visit: https://leafygreensfoodsafety.org/recommendations
The changes that California made to the Food Safety Practices/Metrics are almost identical to the changes that the Arizona LGMA board voted to make on September 14th. LGMA members in California and Arizona produce 94.7% of the nation’s lettuce. The LGMA’s stringent food safety programs verify through government audit that a set of mandatory food safety practices are being followed on leafy greens farms. Under the LGMA programs, over 130 million servings of leafy greens are safely grown in California and Arizona every day.
But even one foodborne illness associated with our product is unacceptable and we are committed to further improving the safety of leafy greens. That is why the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was formed over ten years ago. And today the LGMA offers a mechanism that is able to make and enforce changes that immediately affect an entire commodity group.