New LGMA Strategic Plan Focuses on Food Safety Practices
An important tenet of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement centers on our drive for continuous improvement. This is precisely why every few years the LGMA Board takes a brief retreat to consider its long-range Strategic Plan. We want to make sure the LGMA program and the activities of our Board and staff are focused on key objectives and that we really are improving the safety of leafy greens.
This past February, the Board met in Santa Cruz to revisit and update a Strategic Plan that was initially developed in 2010 and revised again in 2012. The new and updated 2014 Strategic Plan was approved and accepted by the full Board at its meeting August 1 in Santa Maria.
While a few things have changed since 2010, the LGMA’s vision of what it hopes to accomplish basically remains unchanged. It is as follows: To assure safe leafy greens and confidence in our food safety programs. This vision is not just about the LGMA program, but also encompasses all that individual LGMA member companies do to assure leafy greens food safety.
When it comes to the mission statement that guides the LGMA, a slight shift in language was incorporated into the new Strategic Plan. The mission of the LGMA is now stated as follows: To protect consumers and our farming communities, the LGMA ensures that leafy greens are produced using the most current science-based food safety practices.
This is an important shift, because it places an emphasis on the accepted LGMA food safety practices. During the very beginnings of the LGMA, the most important task for all involved was to establish the LGMA food safety metrics. The founders of the LGMA did an incredible job of providing a set of rigorous metrics that were based on the best available science of the day. Since then, these metrics have been regularly updated through an open and transparent process overseen by Western Growers.
Once the initial metrics were established and the LGMA program was launched, efforts quickly turned to the auditing function. Much attention was given to ensuring that audits were conducted by government auditors on a regular and random basis; that they were rigorous, uniform, unbiased and accountable; and that differences between the mandatory government audits of the LGMA and audits conducted by private firms were well understood. Careful attention was paid to tracking the number of audits and citations and an entire training program (LGMA Tech) was developed by LGMA to ensure members and their employees knew how to prepare for and pass an audit.
While all of these very important activities will continue, the LGMA Board wants to return to a greater focus on our food safety practices to ensure they are the best in the industry. With that in mind, the new 2014 Strategic Plan of the LGMA includes a number of priority action items aimed at establishing the LGMA metrics as the marketplace standard for leafy greens. The LGMA will continue to be proactively engaged with state and federal food safety agencies to ensure our metrics are accepted under the Food Safety Modernization Act. We will seek to maintain a productive relationship with the research community to ensure our metrics are always up-to-date and that we are strong advocates for needed research within the science community.
Mandatory government audits are critical to the success of the LGMA program. But, as many food experts tell us, an audit is only able to determine what is happening on the farm during the “snapshot” in time when an inspector is present. What we all know and recognize is that the most important component of a good food safety program is the food safety standards an audit is based on.