California Ag Secretary Lauds Food Safety Program Ready to Implement FSMA Now
Late last year the FDA published the final Produce Rule, which is a key component of new federal food safety laws under the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA. Now the really difficult work begins as farming states throughout the nation begin to figure out how these new laws will be implemented.
It’s a big job. No, it’s a huge job! In a recent article in the Washington DC-based publication POLITICO, it was estimated that in California alone there are over 23,000 produce farms that will need to be brought into compliance under new federal laws. The costs for government agencies to verify that these farms are complying with the new rules are currently unknown. But expense will far exceed what is currently appropriated by Congress. Not surprisingly, the FDA is turning to state departments of food and agriculture for assistance in getting this difficult job done. Obviously the states want to help, but their own funding sources are not adequate to cover the cost of inspections either.
As we’ve repeatedly pointed out in this blog space, a solution exists – at least for the leafy greens grown in California and Arizona. Our LGMA system works to verify through mandatory government inspection that a set of science-based food safety practices are being following on leafy greens farms. These practices have been compared to the new Produce Rule and in almost every area the LGMA metrics meet or exceed the requirements under that rule.
Members of the LGMA in California are audited approximately 5 times per year by qualified and trained government auditors. It is mandatory for all LGMA members to be in 100 percent compliance with all 180 checkpoints which comprise each LGMA audit. On top of that, the system is paid for through LGMA assessments without the need for additional taxpayer dollars.
Oversight of the LGMA is provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Recently CDFA Secretary Karen Ross talked about the LGMA and its value to the Department as they begin the job of implementing and funding food safety inspections. In her comments Secretary Ross emphasized the need to capitalize on programs like the LGMA which already aligned with the Produce Rule. She pledged to work with FDA to ensure that LGMA members who are in good standing will be deemed in full compliance with new laws under FSMA.
“The LGMA is very unique and effective. It is an industry funded self-assessment program with oversight from the Department of Food and Agriculture and that is an important role for us to play.”
– CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
Ross expressed her hope that FDA will not attempt to “reinvent the wheel” but that they align with what is already in existence and has shown to result in strong compliance in the state of California.
Ross explains that over the next several months, her department will be working even more closely with FDA now that the Produce Rule has been finalized and they move on to the job of bringing California farms into compliance with new laws. Her belief is that the LGMA program will allow both FDA and her department to demonstrate early success toward the goal of full implementation of FSMA.
For our part, the LGMA is happy to assist Secretary Ross and her staff in any way we can. Though it was created out of crisis, the LGMA has proven to be highly successful in establishing a new culture on leafy greens farms that puts food safety first. LGMA members are committed to food safety. They have put their dollars and their time into creating a program that will satisfy FDA’s requirements and make leafy greens safe.