Work underway to strengthen California leafy greens food safety practices
LGMA has a set out a series of new practices and and standards being carried out to ensure the food safety of leafy greens and to prevent future pathogenic outbreaks.
California leafy greens farmers are reportedly working to implement new standards and food safety practices on their farms to protect consumers and prevent future outbreaks linked to leafy greens. These practices include enhanced requirements adopted by the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) for sprinkler applied treatment of irrigation water during the last 21 days prior to harvest.
Since August 2019, the LGMA has also reportedly been strengthening requirements for ag water use. Under a new process created to review and update food safety practices for farming leafy greens, a series of webinars are being held to gather input on proposed changes to required practices, or metrics, for ag water.
Approximately 30 suggested changes for water use have been recommended by an LGMA subcommittee. These recommendations include updated requirements for drip and furrow irrigation as well as updates to water used for chemical applications.
In addition to water, LGMA subcommittees have been formed to address other topics including equipment sanitation, soil amendments/crop inputs, adjacent land use and proximity to animals. These subcommittees include industry experts from California and Arizona who are said to be systematically reviewing each section of the LGMA food safety practices and other potential food safety issues of concern from a scientific perspective.
Examples of some of the work being done by the subcommittees include the following:
- A Soil Amendments/Crop Inputs Subcomittee is looking at more detailed standards to address best practices that include compost applications; other crop and soil inputs; storage, handling and transportation; container ID and tracking; and inputs applied to neighbouring properties
- An Equipment, Packing Materials and Field Sanitation Subcommittee is looking to develop enhanced standards related to harvest equipment, harvest personnel and training that also encompass human vectored pathogens such as Cyclospora and COVID-19.
The process for updating the LGMA standards is being facilitated by Western Growers, as an independent party to solicit and collect input from all stakeholders. A public website has been created so all interested parties can engage.
The goal is to create unified standards for how leafy greens are farmed using the best science and expertise available from throughout the leafy greens community.
Under the Western Growers process, a public comment period for water has just ended, and the one on harvest related equipment sanitation practices is open through the end of May. Future comment periods will cover the topics of soil amendments/crop inputs and adjacent property/CAFOs.
Once recommended changes have been finalised, they will be presented to the LGMA for adoption. Approved updates will become part of the required food safety practices and included in mandatory inspections for LGMA members.
LGMA has emphasised that government food safety audits conducted through the LGMA programme are taking place even with the COVID-19 situation.