Members of the California Leafy Greens Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) began using a service mark on July 23 that certifies membership in the program. The service mark, to be used on bills of lading, indicates a handler's commitment to a set of good agricultural practices audited by the LGMA.

The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was formed in response to the E. coli outbreak that was linked to California spinach last year.

The marketing agreement represents approximately 99 percent of the leafy greens industry in California, and requires of signatories that they implement and maintain the highest standards of safety in growing and handling spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens.

The mark coincides with the beginning of certification audits conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture's USDA-trained inspectors.

“The service mark reflects a handler's commitment to implementing enhanced food safety standards,” said Tom Nunes, LGMA board member. “By using it on their bills of lading, our signatories will be communicating to customers that they are members in good standing of the LGMA.”

According to LGMA chief executive officer Scott Horsfall, the use of the service mark will be mandatory on Sept. 1, 2007.

“Using the service mark communicates that a handler is in compliance with the marketing agreement, which means they are producing and marketing lettuce, spinach, and many other leafy green products in California according to the enhanced good agricultural practices accepted by our board.”

Violations of the marketing agreement can result in a handler losing the right to use the service mark.