USDA Food Safety Cost Study Reveals LGMA Members are Well Prepared for FSMA

USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released a very interesting and informative new study that examines costs of various food safety practices among some of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement’s membership. The study’s objective is to provide a reference for produce farms across the U.S. about anticipated costs to implement new food safety regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Rule.

The results of this research do provide a guide that identifies the activities representing the greatest expenses for producers and it provides a range –although quite broad—of costs for various food safety categories.  But what this research shows, once again, is that LGMA members are well positioned to be in compliance with FSMA.

The complete version of the study — Food Safety Practices and Costs Under the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement – by Linda Calvin, Helen Jensen, Karen Klonsky and Roberta Cook is available here.  A summary of the paper also appears in the USDA publication, Amber Waves.

The authors note they elected to study food safety practices and costs for California leafy greens firms participating in the LGMA because “this is a sector of the produce industry that has already instituted food safety standards and has had time to find the best way to comply with regulations.”

Over the past ten years, food safety has become a part of doing business in the leafy greens industry. So, it stands to reason these researchers would look to our members to provide the insights that make up this study.  The study confirms the LGMA metrics are at least equal to the Produce Rule regulations and often exceed the new laws.  The study also shows that some buyers are also still demanding extra measures beyond even what the LGMA requires, although this appears to have decreased over the years.

Below is a chart which shows a breakdown of costs for the five main food safety categories revealed in this study, while the table next to it shows the minimum and maximum amounts spent on a number of food safety activities. Much, much more detail is available in the study itself.

This study provides several important takeaways for produce operations as they prepare to comply with the Produce Rule.  We also learned a few things about our member companies and their commitment to the LGMA food safety principles.  Below are a few examples:

  • All firms participating in this research are using LGMA food safety practices for other produce items they grow on their farms – not just for leafy greens.
  • All companies qualified for an exemption from monthly water testing requirements offered by the LGMA for acceptable consecutive tests results. Most firms continued to conduct monthly water tests anyway.
  • One of the leading food safety costs was the result of field monitoring and not harvesting produce from areas with evidence of animal intrusion and potential for microbial contamination. Please note, this requirement is not found in the Produce Rule, but is required by the LGMA and by many buyers.

These are all great example of the commitment that LGMA members are making to food safety that extends beyond federal laws.  There are many, many more in this report and the LGMA plans to study the report further to see what else can learn from this important research project. We thank the researchers for this tremendous piece of work.

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