With the recent release of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule, FDA has launched a new era in food safety which focuses on preventing foodborne illness outbreaks rather than responding to them. The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and its members welcome this approach as one we share. As farmers and producers, food safety is the most important thing we do. So, when we hear of outbreaks like the current one going on in Canada which may be associated with produce, our sympathies immediately go out to those who have been sickened and the first thing we ask ourselves is what can we do to make our food safety systems even better.
Serving as the chairman of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is a job I welcomed when I took the position nearly one year ago. My farm, and the hundreds of others that make up the California leafy greens community, share an overwhelming commitment to this food safety program and we have embraced government inspections that verify a set of science-based food safety systems that are being followed on leafy greens farms.
The goal is always to produce a safe product, and a culture where food safety comes first is now pervasive throughout the leafy greens industry. Most importantly, as a member of a farm family and the father of five children, I know that we absolutely must produce a product that is safe. My own children eat the leafy greens that I grow. That is why when we learn of a possible outbreak; we jump in to learn more.
Consumers should know that if there is an outbreak determined to be associated with California leafy greens, the LGMA is committed to working with health officials to assist in determining the cause. Traceback and recall capabilities that are a mandatory part of our program can be initiated and any product with the potential to be associated with the outbreak is removed from market channels to protect consumers. Information about any implicated farms is made available to authorities, and re-inspections can be done. If it is determined that an outbreak is the result of any on-farm practice, the food safety measures included in the LGMA program will be examined and, if necessary, changed.