The California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) operates with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and is a mechanism for verifying through mandatory government audits that farmers follow accepted food safety practices for lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens. These LGMA food safety practices are designed to reduce the sources of potential contamination on farms or into fields. Over time, these food safety practices will evolve as industry, scientists and academia identify and develop new technologies to further improve food safety practices in order to protect public health.
The LGMA is made up of member companies (usually referred to as handlers) that ship and sell lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens products. Working with hundreds of farmers, LGMA member companies ship and sell approximately 99% of the California leafy greens products that ultimately reach consumers. These companies provide leafy green products – both raw and processed – to the world’s grocery stores, restaurants and institutions.
The LGMA program operates with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. All actions of the LGMA and its Advisory Board must be approved by the Secretary of CDFA. The Board is appointed by California’s Secretary of Agriculture, and is comprised of farmers, shippers and processors of leafy greens, plus two public members who represent the interests of consumers.
Fourteen leafy green products are covered by the LGMA including:
- Butter Lettuce
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Baby Leaf Lettuce
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Romaine Lettuce
- Spring Mix
At the heart of the LGMA program is the mandatory audit program that certifies member companies are implementing food safety practices developed by university and industry scientists, food safety experts, farmers, shippers and processors. These food safety practices were also reviewed by state and federal government health agencies. (The food safety practices can be found on this website in the Food Safety Practices section). This set of food safety practices has been accepted by the LGMA and all LGMA member companies are subject to mandatory government audits on a regular, but random basis to ensure that the LGMA-accepted food safety practices are being implemented. The food safety practices cover five key areas:
Member companies are required to have a complete food safety compliance plan, an up-to-date list of growers, and a written traceback program.
Pre-season and pre-harvest assessments are required to make sure conditions that can affect food safety, such as animal intrusions, flooding, proximity to animal feeding operations, etc. are not present, or have been properly mitigated.
Extensive testing and record keeping for all sources of water used in the production of leafy greens is required by the program.
Extensive testing, certification and record keeping for soil amendments, including compost and fertilizers, are required by the program.
Work Practices and Field Observations
Field audits verify that farmers are in compliance with the program’s requirements in the areas of worker practices and field sanitation.
Food safety must be a priority for every farmer. Not only is this important to protect public health, the livelihood of farmers and industry depends on our ability to provide safe, wholesome and delicious food for consumers. While most agree that the LGMA food safety practices are rigorous and among the most stringent in the nation, the LGMA staff and Board remain committed to regularly outreach to farmers through educational seminars and personal contact to help farmers maintain a strong level of compliance with the food safety practices. Through the creation of the LGMA, now more than ever, farmers, shippers and processors can state with assurance that the California leafy greens industry is producing a safe, delicious and nutritious product that consumers can buy with confidence.
All LGMA member companies are subject to mandatory government audits to ensure that the LGMA-accepted practices are being implemented. The audits are conducted by California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors who received special training and certification from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the auspices of the National Good Agricultural Practices Program standards. The National Good Agricultural Practices Program was jointly developed by the USDA and the Federal Food and Drug Administration. LGMA member companies are audited by the certified government inspectors at least four times per year.
If an LGMA member is found to be out of compliance in any of these areas, that company is issued a citation. Each citation is recorded at one of four levels, ranging from a Minor Infraction to a Flagrant Violation. The LGMA Compliance Audit Process provides opportunities for member companies to take corrective action on citations that do not pose an immediate threat to food safety and public health. Flagrant Violations, which could result in a potentially unsafe product reaching the marketplace, result in decertification from the program and discontinued use of the LGMA Service Mark. In the case of flagrant violations, a special committee which includes California Department of Food and Agriculture personnel has been formed to make recommendations regarding penalties. The names of companies that have been decertified from the LGMA are posted on the members section of this website.
The LGMA Service Mark is carried on sales documents, such as bills of lading and shipping manifests, so it is easily recognizable to buyers of leafy green products. Produce buyers help enforce the Service Mark when they only buy from LGMA member companies. For, example, Canada and Mexico require that all leafy green products imported from the State of California are from certified member companies of the LGMA. All LGMA members in good standing are listed on the members section of this website.
Currently, the member companies of the LGMA represent approximately 99% of the volume of the California leafy greens products. The grocery stores and restaurants that purchase California leafy greens products help enforce the LGMA by only purchasing product from LGMA certified member companies. In addition, LGMA member companies in good standing use a Service Mark that identifies them as LGMA members. This Service Mark is carried on sales documents which are easily recognizable to buyers for grocery stores, restaurants and other institutions. All LGMA members in good standing are also listed on the members section of this website for easy reference.