(California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board)

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board has approved changes to its food safety standards (metrics) in the areas of animal intrusion and compost practices.

“These actions represent a significant step forward in the evolution of food safety standards for leafy greens,” said Scott Horsfall, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) chief executive officer.

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Horsfall said, “The changes will provide an improved system to assess and reduce potential risk in leafy greens fields while reducing the impact of food safety metrics on the environment.”

The changes are the result of months of work in the leafy greens industry. The effort was led by Hank Giclas of Western Growers, in collaboration with university scientists, industry food safety experts, farmers and shippers of leafy greens products, and the environmental community.

Giclas says the new metrics refocus the efforts of LGMA handlers to assess risks of intrusion in the field from any animal rather than responding to a list of specific animals under the original LGMA metrics.

The new approach requires LGMA handlers to determine the level of intrusion and which mitigating action should be taken.

The new metrics also add a definition for green waste and requirements for composting green waste relative to the production of leafy greens.

“The change regarding animal intrusion reflects a more common sense approach to dealing with this important issue,” said Jennifer Biringer of The Nature Conservancy.

The new metrics require all handlers to have approved standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to address how signs of animal intrusion in the field will be handled. Assessments must be conducted prior to and during harvest to determine if there has been any animal intrusion in the field.

If signs of animal intrusion are determined as low risk, the situation can be handled according to the company’s SOPs.

If the contamination from animals is determined to present a potential food safety risk, it must be mitigated according to the LGMA metrics which require a buffer to be established around any impacted product and that portion of the field must not be harvested.

The specific metrics required of LGMA members in this instance are available on-line at www.lgma.ca.gov/food-safety-practices.

According to Horsfall, the same changes were accepted by the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

Compliance with the new standards will be verified through mandatory government audits for Arizona and California handlers beginning in the late fall and winter of 2013-2014.

Horsfall says the changes align the LGMA metrics more closely with the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act.

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