On March 31, 2011, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) completed its fourth year of verifying that leafy greens handlers and their growers are implementing rigorous food safety standards and practices. It hardly seems possible that it’s been five years since that tragic E. coli outbreak affected hundreds of people across the country. The LGMA was formed as a response to that outbreak, and has since become a model for food safety in other states and in other industries.
Today, the LGMA released its fourth Annual Report covering the period from April 2010 through March 2011. The report provides an overview of activities conducted over the past year. Some of the highlights include:
► a series of food safety workshops designed to help members reduce citations found through the program’s rigorous food safety audits;
►visits from important government food safety regulators including USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg who saw first-hand the rigor and scope of the LGMA audit program;
►positive media coverage such as one lauding the LGMA as “an industry doing it right” which appeared on CNN;
► the presentation of two Golden Checkmark Awards recognizing founding LGMA Chairman Joe Pezzini and former California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura for their support of mandatory government inspection of food safety systems in the produce industry ;
►the increasing involvement of retail and foodservice customers through a new LGMA Trade Council and participation in tours of leafy greens food safety operations.
Each of these activities points to the continuing advancements of the LGMA’s food safety program and its efforts to educate industry and further protect public health. But the most important component of the LGMA 2010/2011 Annual Report is the detailed accounting of member audits, citations and corrective actions which result from the rigorous food safety inspections.
According to audit results reported during 2010/11, the LGMA conducted more inspections during this fiscal year than the previous, yet there was a substantial decrease in citations issued. Specifically, 589 audits were conducted during 2010/11 compared with 551 audits in 2009/10. The total number of citations issued was 1,003 this year, down from 1,293 in the previous year. When each of the 184 checkpoints that are part of every LGMA audit are considered and multiplied by the number of audits conducted, an impressive 108,376 food safety checkpoints were found to be in compliance among LGMA members. This represents 99.3 percent of the checkpoints examined during LGMA audits conducted by government inspectors during 2010/11.
The report contains detailed information about all citations issued and corrective actions taken and provides specifics about the one member who was decertified during the past year. This detailed reporting provides a transparent and comprehensive look at audits conducted by government inspectors as well as the actions taken by industry to ensure they are in compliance with the LGMA’s science-based food safety practices. Because all members are required to be in full compliance with all LGMA practices, it is a system which drives continuous improvements in protecting public health on leafy greens farms.
Click here to view a full copy of the report.