The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) Advisory Board voted last week to accept several updates to required food safety practices for the farming of leafy greens.

Over 50 recommended changes were unanimously approved to strengthen food safety requirements in the areas of Farm Water Use and Field/Equipment Sanitation. These are in addition to several significant changes made by the LGMA less than a year ago.

“The changes were part of a process of continuous improvement for the industry. A series of Subcommittees has been reviewing the LGMA’s required food safety practices in all areas. In recent months, Subcommittees for Water Use and Field/Equipment Sanitation met numerous times to consider new research, examine findings from outbreak investigations, gather input from food safety experts and the public before making recommendations to the full LGMA Board last week. This process is being facilitated by the Western Growers Association as part of an open, transparent process,” according to LGMA Marketing Director April Ward.

Although many of the changes strengthen existing language or provide additional guidance and direction for leafy greens food safety, Ward said some of the more important changes include:

1. Adoption of new requirements that ensure the safety of water used during overhead application of pesticides and crop protection materials. This update is similar to changes approved by the LGMA last year requiring that any water from open sources – such as a canal or reservoir -- applied via overhead application must be treated to eliminate pathogens during the previous 21 days before harvest.

2. Approved enhancements to monitoring requirements for water used in farming leafy greens to ensure that regular water quality tests are conducted and that samples are collected throughout the irrigation systems used in leafy greens fields.

3. Added language to minimize the risk of water applied via furrow irrigation from coming into contact with any edible portion of the leafy greens plant.

4. Updated best practices for cleaning harvest equipment, containers, tools and bathroom facilities in and near leafy greens fields.

5. New language designed to prevent the cut end of leafy greens product from coming into contact with the ground during harvest.

Similar changes were also adopted by the Arizona LGMA.

Approved updates will now be forwarded to CDFA to be incorporated into food safety checklists used by government auditors to verify new practices are being followed on leafy greens farms. The LGMA program will immediately begin educating members on how to comply with the new standards.

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