California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has received the “Golden Checkmark” award from the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement for his role in developing an innovative food safety program.

The award was presented on March 24 as part of a California “Ag Day” celebration.

Three years ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger saw the need for increased government oversight of food safety systems within the leafy greens industry following an E. coli outbreak associated with spinach.

Schwarzenegger, working with the leafy greens industry, quickly established the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), which created a mechanism for mandatory government inspections to ensure compliance with established food safety practices on leafy greens farms.

The LGMA is the first program of its kind in the nation. Since its inception in April 2007 nearly 1,000 audits of California leafy greens farms have been conducted by government inspectors.

The LGMA is operated with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture under the direction of Secretary A.G. Kawamura. Through the program, audits of California leafy greens farms are conducted on a regular and random basis by government inspectors employed by the CDFA and trained by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger’s foresight and concern for food safety led us to this point,” Kawamura said. “And now, California farmers of leafy greens products, like lettuce and spinach, have the force of law behind them through government agencies ensuring that food safety practices are enforced."

A national leafy greens marketing agreement is being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture.