LGMA Hosts Important Tour Groups
You may have heard that September is National Food Safety Education Month. It’s fitting then, that the LGMA is taking time this month to host a couple of very important groups as they tour the state’s leafy greens farms and learn about our food safety program.
Last week, the LGMA was very pleased to host a group of folks from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are key players at FDA who are working to implement new federal food safety laws under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As FDA gets closer to finalizing how this law will be implemented, it’s important we learn more about their plans for the produce industry. Equally important, we believe FDA can learn a lot by seeing the LGMA program up close — particularly since we have been operating since 2007 with requirements very similar to what is proposed through FSMA.
The tour with FDA is well-timed. Just a few weeks ago, FDA announced it will be partnering with state departments of agriculture to help implement the Produce Safety Rule that is part of FSMA. Since, the LGMA program operates with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and utilizes trained auditors who are employed by CDFA – there is much we can learn from each other. We’re certainly pleased to be working with FDA on these important new laws and have had several other teams from FDA here before. We were very happy a new group with us last week.
This week, the LGMA is playing host to another very different, but equally important group – food safety personnel from retail and foodservice operations. When it comes to the LGMA, the role of companies that purchase leafy greens is to enforce our program by ensuring product comes only from certified members of the LGMA. This is a very important role and the LGMA believes it’s critically important to make sure retailers and restaurant buyers understand and feel confident in our program. As such, we invite a group like this to California each year.
This year, as in years past, we’re hosting a great bunch of people. They come from noted chains like Raley’s Supermarkets; Food Lion; Panera Bread, Sysco and Avendra. As with the group from FDA, our tours include visits to central coast farming operations and provide plenty of interaction with government food safety auditors who work hard to ensure LGMA members are in 100 percent compliance with all required food safety practices.
The LGMA places great value on the food safety practices required of our members. So, we work closely with Western Growers and the Center for Produce Safety to ensure the LGMA metrics are based on the most recent science. There’s nothing like hearing straight from the experts. So, we really appreciate Dr. Jim Gorny, Chairman of The CPS Technical Committee and Sonia Salas, Director of Science and Technology with Western Growers, spending time with both of our groups.
One benefit of these kinds of educational opportunities is to learn from each other. We’ve found there’s no substitute for seeing the LGMA program first-hand and meeting the people responsible for producing safe leafy greens. The impact of these kinds of educational opportunities last long after the tours are over.