The growers whose crops make salads possible are in the process of implementing new food safety metrics adopted by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and its partner organization in Arizona.
“The new metric requirements are going to be phased in over the winter,” said Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the Sacramento-based California LGMA.
“We have a series of workshops over the last week of October and the first week of November to be sure everyone knows what the requirements are. We’re doing a lot of education and outreach.”
Workshops for handlers and growers started in the Salinas Valley and then proceeded down the state’s Central Coast, where preparations for the spring have already begun. From Santa Maria south some areas have year-round production, Horsfall said.
Other workshops were planned for Bakersfield and California’s desert production areas. In Arizona, similar events for LGMA members had already been held in Yuma and more were coming.
Among other provisions, the new food safety metrics require assessment of field intrusion risks from any animal instead of a limited list of species. Previously there was a special focus on five animal types: cattle, pigs, sheep, deer and goats.
“It’s all about how you evaluate and mitigate risks of animal intrusion,” Horsfall said.
“At the beginning of the LGMA program, we were mostly concerned about E. coli. A group of animals were dubbed ‘animals of significant risk’ because they had been associated with E. coli outbreaks in the past.”
“There was maybe too much focus on that suite of five animals and not enough on animals of concern as you start looking at salmonella and other pathogens,” he said.
“We gradually came to the realization that was an adjustment we needed to make. Every allusion to animals of significant risk is now gone from the metrics and it’s all been replaced with a more focused approach to assessing animal risks in general and taking the appropriate steps.”
The original five animals remain matters of concern, naturally, but what the LGMA wants members to be doing is looking at their fields for any sign of encroachment.
“Some of those signs will be very minor and won’t require a lot of mitigation,” Horsfall said.
“For others, particularly feces in the field, it doesn’t really matter what animal it was, you have to take significant steps.”
In more serious cases those steps include unharvestable buffers around intrusion sites as mandated by the LGMA. Signs deemed minor can be handled according to a company’s procedures.
LGMA food safety practices are outlined at http://tinyurl.com/pzt2j47.
Supporters of the new metrics have included The Nature Conservancy and university researchers.