The approach, set to take effect in the fall and winter, requires member handlers to determine the level of intrusion and what mitigating action is needed.
It’s among a number of changes that have also been adopted by the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
“These actions represent a significant step forward in the evolution of food safety standards for leafy greens,” Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of Sacramento-based California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, said in a news release. “The changes will provide an improved system to assess and reduce potential risk in leafy greens fields while reducing the impact of food safety metrics on the environment.”
The new metrics also add a definition for green waste and requirements for composting green waste.
The metrics come out of a months-long process directed by Hank Giclas, senior vice president of strategic planning, science and technology for Western Growers Association. Food safety experts, university scientists and grower-shippers collaborated.
Regulators, environmentalists and others participated in the discussion, according to Giclas.
“Our organization has been concerned about overzealous efforts of some farmers and demands of their customers to prevent animal intrusion by using methods that are disruptive to the environment,” Jennifer Biringer, south Central Coast project director for The Nature Conservancy, said in the release. “This change in the LGMA metrics makes sense because is it focused on mitigating any real risk that may be present in the field.”
The metrics require all handlers to have approved standard operating procedures for how signs of animal intrusion will be handled. Assessments must be conducted prior to and during harvest to determine if field intrusion exists.
If signs of animal intrusion are assessed as low risk, the situation can be handled according to the company’s procedures. If it’s a potential food safety risk, it must be mitigated according to LGMA metrics, which require a buffer around impacted product. That portion of the field cannot be harvested.
Such requirements are described online.
“What’s really important is to make sure that if there is an entry in the field by an animal that could present a potential food safety risk, there is a way to make sure product directly impacted does not get to consumers and that it is removed from the field safely,” Michele Jay-Russell, veterinarian and University of California Davis researcher with the Western Center for Food Safety, said in the release. “That is what the new metrics are designed to do.”
Both LGMA organizations are planning workshops on the new metrics for growers and handlers.