2017 Annual Report: Ten Years of Protecting Public Health
Ten years ago the first government audit of a leafy greens farm under the newly created California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was conducted. The date was July 23, 2007. Since then, more than 5,000 government audits of leafy greens farms have taken place under the LGMA.
Today, we are proud to release the LGMA’s Tenth Annual Report which provides details of findings from government audits conducted between April 1, 2016 and March 30, 2017. Over the years, these reports have become increasingly more streamlined and simplified. This year’s report, in particular, is an easy read with plenty of charts and graphs to illustrate key points.
The information presented in the past ten annual reports has been very consistent, which provides a clear means of demonstrating improvements over the years. Trust me, there have been improvements. The first LGMA Annual Report — which was called a Status Report and covered the six-month period between July and December 2007 – showed a total of 457 citations issued to members each time they did not conform with one of the mandatory food safety checkpoints included in an LGMA government audit. This year’s Annual Report cites just 386 non-conformities – a 20 percent reduction in citations compared to those first audits conducted in 2007.
Of the 457 citations issued in that first Status Report, 39 were categorized as Major Deviations. And three companies were decertified for Flagrant Violations of the program’s standards.
This year, only five non-conformities were issued in the category of Major Deviations — down significantly from the 13 Major Deviations issued last year. And no Flagrant Violations were issued. In fact, there have been no Flagrant Violations of the LGMA’s Metrics since 2011.
Most significantly, the LGMA has not had a member decertified from the program in several years. This is because the system of decertification and the resulting public notification has proven to be an extremely severe penalty for leafy greens handlers who want to continue selling to foodservice or retail buyers. No buyer is going to purchase leafy greens from a handler who has been decertified by the LGMA.
This is because the LGMA certification has real meaning to the produce buying trade. This program has come to be a valued and trusted institution over the past ten years. So, while this year’s Annual Report – and the others before it – contain a lot of great data, the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is about so much more.
Creating a Culture
The data does indeed show that the leafy greens community has gotten better at food safety. But the true success of the LGMA’s food safety program is that it drives continuous improvement and creates a culture of food safety. I’m confident in saying the handlers, growers and employees who make up the California leafy greens industry KNOW they have gotten better at food safety. They are truly committed to producing the safest leafy greens possible. All this year’s Annual Report does is verify that fact.