Protecting Public Health the LGMA Way
Discussions about food safety and how best to protect public health are prevalent in the news of late – especially amidst development of new food safety laws, government shutdowns, poultry outbreaks and lawsuits. In response, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is stressing that a system exists to verify science-based food safety practices are being followed on leafy greens farms through a unique public-private partnership.
Seven years ago, the California leafy greens farmers invited government auditors into their operations to provide mandatory audits. The auditors utilized by the LGMA are trained and certified by the USDA and operate with oversight from the California Department of Agriculture, they were selected by the LGMA because the USDA audit service is part of a public agency mandated to protect the food supply.
The LGMA program was designed with a set of checks and balances to ensure it does all that it can to protect public health by establishing a culture of food safety on the farm. It is this culture of food safety that matters and audits are an important tool to get you there. A major component of this program’s integrity is its use of government auditors. Why is this important?
In addition to the LGMA’s mandatory government audits, most handlers are also inspected by private firms. Private audits are done primarily at the request of buyers as a condition of sale with the cost of the audit paid for, in most situations, directly by the seller. Assuming the seller passes the audit with an acceptable score, a report is provided to the buyers as proof that the supplier has met the required food safety practices.
The LGMA firmly believes that our comprehensive food safety program (which requires 100 percent compliance, corrective actions and includes unannounced audits) works to create a “culture of food safety on the farm.” LGMA members absolutely must operate as if they will be audited any day of the season – because it is possible they will be. It is the establishment of this kind of food safety culture, which is much more important than any audit program in preventing foodborne illness.