Improving Food Safety — A Culture of Collaboration
March 02, 2021|
This column originally appeared on The Packer
I’ve been CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement for two months and I remain both excited and humbled by the task at hand. Excited because I have assumed responsibility for an ever-evolving organization that has done significant work to develop an industry-wide food safety program for leafy greens.
But I remain humble because I clearly recognize that my primary role is protecting the consumer and public health by continuously improving the safety of leafy greens, and that challenge feels daunting.
But what has struck me is that my long-standing philosophy of collaboration to move issues forward in a positive way is what I will need now more than ever if we are to achieve the goal of consistently protecting public health. Let me explain.
The Leafy Greens Industry
The support, confidence and leadership of farmers, shippers, packers and processors is at the core of the LGMA. And it isn’t just about participating in the program, adhering to the food safety metrics or complying with government audits. Although these are vitally important, I will need the guidance of individuals whose daily job is all about food safety — mining their knowledge, listening to their ideas, understanding their experiences. They are the key to evolving the LGMA and making it better.
I will seek and need input from retailers and foodservice operations that purchase our products. This is the world I come from and we must lean on each other to make needed improvements together, especially in the area of traceability. Coming from the buy-side, I hope to leverage my relationships within this community because their insights and perspectives regarding food safety can have a positive impact on our program.
Federal regulators are working tirelessly and collaboratively to help us be better. Their goal is the same as ours — protecting public health. Although we may not always agree with their actions, I appreciate that we have to work together, collaboratively. Their commitment to consumers is shared with LGMA and we view them as partners in achieving our shared objective.
We are so fortunate to have great scientists working on our behalf within academia and trade associations. Through the Center for Produce Safety, studies are continuing so we can better understand risks and find mitigation strategies that make produce safer. As a longstanding board member of CPS, I’m excited to apply what is learned from this research to focus and improve LGMA food safety metrics.
And, finally, the consumer. For me, they are the motivation. They are the reason I took this job. I have always been passionate about produce because of its healthfulness, beauty and taste. I want to do my part to ensure consumers’ only thought when making a salad is about what other fruits or vegetables to add because we have achieved their consistent confidence in the safety of leafy greens.
But to reach this level of confidence and fully regain consumer trust, it is going to take collaboration from all of us. I hope you’ll join me in this effort.