Posted October 16, 2013
While many agencies of the U.S. government have been shut down since October 1, food safety audits on leafy greens farm have continued through the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), according to a Western Farm Press article available here.
LGMA auditors are certified and licensed by the USDA, but they are not direct employees of the federal government. The California Department of Food and Agriculture oversees the auditors. In addition, the audit program is fully funded by the leafy greens community through mandatory government assessments.
Through the LGMA, handlers must be in compliance with 100 percent of the required standards and must correct any citations or risk decertification.
The LGMA “believes this public-private partnership is the best model for food safety because it is a system in which industry and government work together to ensure safe food. The leafy greens industry, for its part, works with scientists and food safety experts in a transparent process to develop science-based food safety standards, or metrics. The government then works independently to ensure these practices are being followed on farms.”
The California LGMA was created in response to the lethal E. coli outbreaks in 2006 involving spinach and lettuce grown in California. The LGMA requires participants to use “Leafy Greens Good Agricultural Practices” to improve food safety. California was the first in the nation to use a marketing agreement to improve food safety. For more information on the regulatory response to the E.Coli outbreak in California leafy greens, an article by Matthew Kohnke in the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law, is available here.
Marketing agreements are designed to stabilize market conditions for a certain agricultural commodity. Marketing agreements are voluntary and only binding on those growers, handlers, processors, or others engaged in handling who sign on to the agreement. For more information on marketing agreements and food safety, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here and here.