Industry Collaboration Helps End Surveillance Sampling of Leafy Greens

Jim Rogers Industry, Leafy Greens

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is discontinuing surveillance sampling of leafy greens grown in Salinas Valley. California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) CEO Tim York described the decision from FDA as “impactful.” Collaborative efforts on behalf of the industry were the lynchpin in showing the FDA that broad sampling was not necessary.

“Our discussions between Western Growers, CDFA, and the California LGMA in late Fall, was ‘how can we demonstrate to you that there is proactive activity on the basis of our industry that might preclude the FDA sampling program,’” York explained. “[FDA] said ‘if you can provide us some data around what kind of sampling is taking place, the number of samples and results, we would consider that a mitigation step in place of our surveillance sampling.’ So indeed, that’s what happened.”

surveillance sampling

FDA began the surveillance sampling program during the 2021 growing season. York noted that of approximately 5,000 tests performed there were two positives that were identified. The sampling program was very problematic for growers. Samples of finished product taken from coolers to be tested created significant logistical challenges for industry members.

Western Growers was instrumental in developing a data collection program, which California LGMA encouraged members to submit testing data to. That information was sufficient enough for FDA to discontinue the broad sampling program for the 2022 growing season. However, FDA has reserved the right to resume the sampling program in the event of future outbreaks or other particular areas of concern.

“I think this is a great example of when we’re working together towards a common goal with a common understanding of what our needs are, we can have success in working with FDA,” said York. “FDA has their needs met as an agency to protect consumer health. And we as an industry find steps that address the concern of FDA but also address our concern in just turning out healthy and safe products.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West