The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) Board recently adopted preharvest testing requirements for members. Testing protocols will be determined based on the risk of potential exposure to contamination. The new testing requirements are meant to serve as verification that other industry-led food safety efforts are proving effective.
“What growers are being required to do is conduct a risk assessment. So, looking at whatever factors might be a potential risk to a lettuce or leafy greens crops whether its animal proximity, its water runoff, its high winds or weather events, anything that might affect the safety of that crop,” said Tim York, LGMA CEO. “If the growers deem there is a potential risk, then that would trigger risk-based preharvest testing.”
Samples will be tested for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Salmonella enterica. In the event of a positive test, a series of protocols will be triggered requiring further action. “There are two steps. One is, that crop is going to be destroyed but also root-cause analysis is required to determine how and why that crop was potentially contaminated,” York noted.
LGMA partnered with Western Growers in the development of food safety metrics. Western Growers created a set of standards as part of the new preharvest testing requirements. The sampling and testing guidance document was recently finished, allowing the LGMA Board to move forward with the new requirements. York explained that the uniformity within the standards of the testing requirements will inspire further assurance that the industry is doing all it can to bolster food safety.
“When we’re talking about buyers for large retail or foodservice distributors, it gives them the confidence to know that everyone is following the same practices,” said York. “When we reach out to buyers and say, ‘here’s what we’re doing with the California LGMA,’ they can be certain that everyone is taking the same approach.”
It will take some time for the new risk-based harvest testing requirement to be fully implemented. Growers will need to be educated on what the new requirement entails. Auditors will also need to be brought up to speed on what to look for. “It’s a process and so we think that by January 1  we should have all of that in place and begin auditing against the new standard,” York explained.