New requirements have recently been adopted pertaining to watering rules for California leafy greens, as a means to further increase produce safety. The new rules call for more stringent overview of watering systems to help eliminate potential for contamination.
“The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board of Directors have adopted additional requirements to reduce risk when it comes to water used in growing lettuce and leafy greens,” California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) CEO Scott Horsfall said in a statement. “This means that every box of leafy greens placed into commerce by a certified LGMA member will now be produced under new, more stringent requirements.”
Some of the steps included as part of the new protocol will include growers reviewing their entire water system, covering wells, reservoirs, canals and municipal sources. Producers will also need to review all delivery methods such as drip and sprinkler systems. Testing will also be required under the new standards, as well as administering sanitation treatments if necessary. Producers will also no longer be allowed to use untreated surface water with overhead irrigation 21 days before the harvest of crops. All LGMA members are audited by certified government officials several times a year to ensure that all the required practices are being followed.
The adoption of increased safety protocol comes after romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli sickened nearly 300 people last year. Investigations conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that the outbreaks likely originated as a result of irrigation water from contaminated water sources such as canals and reservoirs.
California LGMA worked with Western Growers, as well as other industry members and the academic community in the development of the new standards. The updated Food Safety Practices document is available through the LGMA website. There will also be workshops and seminars scheduled soon to provide more detailed information about the changes for growers and buyers.