At the trade group’s meeting in Hawaii, Western Growers Association president Tom Nassif and vice president Hank Giclas each received the Golden Checkmark award from the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
The award recognizes their role in creating the LGMA and their support for mandatory government inspection of food safety systems in the produce industry. Western Growers held its 88th annual meeting Nov. 10-13 in Honolulu.
“We are honoring two individuals who worked tirelessly to create this important program,” Ryan Talley, LGMA chairman and partner in San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Talley Farms, said in a news release. “Ironically, with all the talk about the Food Safety Modernization Act and government oversight of food safety in produce, what often gets lost in the discussion is that the leafy greens community has operated with government oversight since 2007.”
“Tom Nassif and I have spent many years working to enhance the safety of leafy greens, so the validation of that work by the California (LGMA) is both satisfying and appreciated,” Giclas, vice president of science, technology and strategic planning at Western Growers, said in the release.
The LGMA was created with guidance by Western Growers after the 2006 E. coli outbreak attributed to California spinach. Nassif and Giclas were instrumental, according to LGMA chief executive officer Scott Horsfall, in developing the program, which invites government auditors on the farm to verify science-based food safety practices are being followed.
“We cannot express enough how beneficial this program has been for leafy green farmers and handlers,” Horsfall said. “More importantly, it has been tremendously beneficial for consumers who want to enjoy the safest leafy greens possible.”
The first Golden Checkmark award, in 2009, went to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Other past recipients include A.G. Kawamura; the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Bill Pool of Wegmans; Tim York of Markon Cooperative; Mike Spinazzola of Subway; and Joe Pezzini of Ocean Mist Farms.