The CEA Food Safety Coalition (FSC), a group comprised of leaders in the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry, has announced the first-ever food safety certification program specifically for CEA-grown leafy greens.
Members of the coalition can now choose to be assessed for the CEA Leafy Greens Module and, upon successful completion, will be allowed to use the CEA food-safe seal on certified product packaging. The module is measured against science-based criteria and is an add-on to existing compliance with an underlying Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized food safety standard.
“Current food safety standards were written for the field, and many do not address the unique attributes of controlled, indoor environments,” says Marni Karlin, executive director of the coalition. “This new certification process and the accompanying on-pack seal helps to unify CEA growers while also differentiating them from traditional field agriculture.”
CEA takes a technology-based approach to produce optimal growing conditions inside controlled environments such as greenhouses and indoor vertical farms. Plants are typically grown year-round using hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic methods, without the need for pesticides and unaffected by climate or weather.
“The CEA industry is rapidly expanding and predicted to support more than 10% of U.S. vegetable and herb production by 2025,” says Rebecca Anderson, technical key account manager for GLOBALG.A.P. North America. “The CEA FSC Leafy Green Module will set a new industry standard for CEA-grown produce while driving consumer awareness of the innovations happening in indoor agriculture today.”
The certification program is available to all coalition members for a nominal cost and must be completed on an annual basis. CEA growers can be assessed for multiple sites across four key areas:
- Hazard analysis: use of water, nutrients, growing media, seeds, inputs, site control and other relevant factors.
- Water: all contact with the plant and with food contact surfaces. The use of recirculating water will require a continuing hazard analysis. Will also require zone-based environmental monitoring based on company-specific risk assessment.
- Site control/infrastructure system design: all food contact surfaces and adjacent food contact surfaces, including plant containers; will also assess associated farm physical hazards, including lighting, robotics, sensors, equipment, and utensils.
- Pesticide use/testing: the use of pesticides or herbicides during the plant life cycle.
The coalition was founded in 2019 to represent the interests of CEA leafy greens growers in developing credible and appropriate food safety standards while educating consumers and regulators alike on the value of controlled environment agriculture.