(Aug. 12, 11:22 a.m.) The California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement has reached a milestone, completing 500 food safety inspections of its members’ growing operations in its first year.

The agreement represents 99% of the volume of leafy green products produced in California, according to a news release. It was formed April 2007, in response to a 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach.

“The LGMA (marketing agreement) represents an unprecedented commitment to food safety and public health,” Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the agreement, said in the release. “While there is always much more work to be done, the leafy greens industry has come a long way in the last 12 months.”

Since the agreement’s inception, there have been no confirmed major incidents linked to leafy greens from the state. University and industry scientists, as well as growers, shippers and processors, developed the food safety metrics used for the tests, with oversight conducted by state and federal health agencies.

The marketing agreement conducted a nationwide consumer survey in early 2008 that found:

  • 89% of respondents had favorable opinions of the food safety program;

  • 70% said they had confidence in the safety of leafy greens; and

  • 60% believe food safety is better handled by mandatory government inspections and oversight rather than third-party audits, according to the release.