May 22, 2020
Leafy greens group responds to report identifying foodborne illness source

California leafy greens growers are pledging to incorporate findings from a report issued today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into its ongoing process to strengthen required food safety practices on farms.

Leafy greens farmers work hard every day to follow the best-known food safety practices. Clearly, we need to look even beyond our own farms to help us prevent future outbreaks. Information from this new FDA report will be extremely valuable as we further strengthen our practices both in and around our farms.

The FDA report issued today relates to what was actually three distinct outbreaks all occurring in the fall of 2019. In the report, identifies adjacent or nearby land used for cattle grazing as the most likely contributing factor associated with these three outbreaks.

The leafy greens industry hopes to learn more about how leafy greens are being exposed to pathogens like e. coli in the environment and on land surrounding farms through a series of research projects. A project to gather samples and collect data is now underway in Arizona in cooperation with producers, the University of Arizona and the FDA.

A similar study is being developed to perform research in California’s central coast growing areas with an eye toward considering preventative controls that may be necessary on land surrounding our farms as well as additional controls on the leafy greens farms themselves. The study would be done in cooperation with FDA, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, academia and the leafy greens industry. We’re hopeful this kind of work can be done to provide us with answers to help prevent future outbreaks.”

Even before these last outbreaks occurred, the leafy greens industry had launched a comprehensive process to review and update required food safety practices included under the California LGMA.

A series of subcommittees has been appointed to review practices in all areas. Water continues to be a focus of this effort and the industry is in the process of considering some 30 changes to further update practices for water used in farming leafy greens. Other subcommittees on soil amendments and sanitation have been meeting for weeks and a subcommittee on proximity to animals and adjacent land use is being appointed this week. All subcommittees are suggesting updates to strengthen existing requirements.

More information about the collaborative process for updating required food safety practices for leafy greens can be found here.

The goal is to create unified standards for how leafy greens are farmed using the best science and expertise available. We will be relying on information supplied by FDA, scientists and others to help us improve these practices so we can further protect consumers.

The real benefit of the LGMA system is that farmers clearly understand what practices are required. When new information is learned, the standards can quickly be updated and adopted throughout the industry.

– Scott Horsfall, California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA)




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