Since organizing in 2007, the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has pledged to protect public health, assure safe leafy greens, and instill confidence in its food safety programs.
Scott Horsfall, LGMA’s CEO, says that the organization has enacted a list of food safety practices that are implemented on leafy greens farms and verified through government audit. These important safety measures were derived through working with university and industry scientists, food safety experts, government officials, farmers, shippers, and processors.
In August 2020, the LGMA approved more than 50 updates to these required food safety practices for the farming of leafy greens, all unanimously approved by the board. “These changes deal with water, sanitation, and equipment, and the LGMA has appointed special committees looking at adjacent lands to see if there are things that need to be done to put further practices in place in those areas,” Horsfall tells Food Quality & Safety.
One of the most notable updates involves the adoption of requirements that ensure the safety of water used during overhead application of pesticides and crop protection materials.
According to April Ward, LGMA’s marketing director, any water from open sources, including a canal or reservoir, applied via overhead application must be treated to eliminate pathogens during the 21 days prior to harvest. This updates what was agreed upon last year.
Additionally, the board approved enhancements to monitoring requirements for water used in farming leafy greens to ensure that regular water quality tests are conducted and that samples are collected throughout the irrigation systems used in leafy greens fields.
Another enhancement to the old rules, Ward says, was minimizing the risk of furrow irrigation water from coming into contact with any edible portion of a leafy greens plant.
There are also updated best practices for cleaning harvest equipment, containers, tools, and bathroom facilities in and near leafy greens fields and new language designed to prevent the cut end of leafy greens product from coming into contact with the ground during harvest.
It’s now up to the California Department of Food and Agriculture to incorporate these regulations into its food safety checklists used by government auditors to verify that these updated practices are properly followed on farms.