A panel of food safety experts conducting an independent review of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement’s food safety Guidelines basically calls the current production practices scientifically sound, current, and in some cases more stringent than existing federal guidelines.
“In my opinion, the recommendations within the LGMA Guidelines represent the most current microbial food safety best practices,” said Robert Bracket, vice president and director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Brackett, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, participated on the panel along with three other experts in fresh produce food safety.
The panel members agreed that the LGMA Guidelines provide the same level of public health protection, and in some cases even higher standards, than those in the produce safety rule under the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
The independent review was conducted by IDS Decision Sciences and Western Growers.
Specifically, panel reviewers evaluated the latest version of the Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens from 2015.
According to the LGMA, the Guidelines have been updated 12 times since they were established in 2007. The guidelines are aimed to improve the food safety practices required of leafy greens producers who operate under the program.
Scott Horsfall, California LGMA president and chief executive officer, says it was important to gain an outside review of the Guidelines to ensure that “the LGMA remains a strong, preventative program that minimizes the risk of microbial contamination in the production and harvest of leafy greens.”
The food safety panel examined the Guidelines from July to September last year.
The charge for the panel was to determine if the guidelines represent the most up-to-date science, and to compare it with the provisions of the proposed produce rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act.
In addition to Bracket, the panel included Michele Jay-Russell of the Western Center for Food Safety at the University of California; Kali Kniel of the University of Delaware; and Manan Sharma with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
Russell noted, “Perhaps the greatest strength of the LGMA program is the timely engagement of multi-disciplinary experts and extensive review of the scientific literature used to develop and update the Guidelines.”
Kniel praised the LGMA Guidelines use of ‘decision trees’ and microbiological explanations using language the produce industry can easily understand.
“If a document is going to be utilized, it must be clear,” said Kniel. “The LGMA Guidelines includes terms already familiar to many growers like SOPs (standard operating procedures) and GAPs (good agricultural practices) on which some growers have been trained for over 15 years.”
The panel also suggested some modifications to the LGMA Guidelines, referencing that new research findings that will soon be available to update the food safety practices.
According to Hank Giclas of the Western Growers Association, who provided oversight of the review process, said, “The LGMA Guidelines were designed so they can be updated whenever new research becomes available.”
Giclas added, “We are very pleased the panel recognized the efforts of the California leafy green industry to incorporate the most current science into its required food safety practices and we very much appreciate the comments and input provided by the experts who participated in this review.”
The panel report is available on the LGMA website.
Click here for a YouTube video featuring comments from the panel members.
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