A group of consumers sickened in the past by foodborne illnesses involving leafy greens met recently with leafy greens growers.
Members of STOP (Safe Tables Our Priority) Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit organization, met with California growers the week of June 3, according to a news release from the Chicago-based group and the Sacramento-based California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
STOP members, all of whom are victims of foodborne illness, visited farms and processing facilities near San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.
They met with farmers, handlers, processors and food safety experts; visited leafy greens farms; watched leafy greens being harvested and packaged; and had numerous meetings with industry members to learn about the production of leafy greens, and to hear about the food safety practices currently in place.
The group also saw a demonstration of the mandatory government audit, which is at the heart of LGMA.
“While our two groups may appear to be at odds, the fact is: both of us are focused on the common goal of ensuring people don’t get sick from eating healthy products like leafy greens,” Deirdre Schlunegger, STOP’s chief executive officer, said in the release. “To my knowledge, this is the first time a commodity group has proactively reached out to us and invited consumers impacted by foodborne illness to come visit their operations and learn about what they are doing to protect people from getting sick. We very much appreciate the invitation from the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. I think we all learned a great deal.”
Ryan Talley, chairman of the LGMA and a leafy greens producer, expressed his appreciation to STOP and its members.
“We know it’s very difficult for these individuals to recount stories of how they became ill and the tragic impacts of foodborne illness they have personally experienced,” he said. “I asked these remarkable people to please continue to talk about their experiences and relay them to farmers like us, because we need to hear it. Together, farmers and consumers can make a difference in making food safer.”