The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement deserves and gets much credit for its work on delivering safe products to consumers.
It began the year after the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak. Also in 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. USDA announced in early December it has terminated the proposal.
But this is not bad news.
The California LGMA remains in place and effective in this time of reconciliation on the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act.
California and Arizona, which essentially have the same program, represent 90% of U.S. leafy greens production, and 99% of those growers are LGMA members.
While LGMA leadership said it was OK with the USDA move, Western Growers was critical, saying hundreds of hours were wasted.
But we don’t think that’s true.
We’re confident many of the issues brought up regarding a national leafy greens program are being considered in the FSMA deliberation.
In all likelihood, FSMA regulations will be similar and even not as stringent as ones LGMA already uses, so a national LGMA would have brought little value.
There is still fear that an outbreak involving lettuce grown on the East Coast, for example, could affect the California market.
But increasingly, we’ve seen more sophisticated and less disruptive outbreak responses from companies involved to government health agencies to consumers to media.
As we get closer to FSMA’s eventual implementation, we expect future outbreaks to be more rare, more orderly and less subject to panic.
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