(April 2, 12:10 p.m.) A national survey shows 89% of consumers have a favorable opinion about food safety efforts in the California leafy greens industry after hearing about the voluntary good agricultural practices marketing agreement most growers, shippers and processors have joined.

According to the February survey by the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, 70% of the participants said — after learning about government audits in the program — their confidence in the overall safety of leafy green products had increased, according to a news release.

The organization was formed in the spring of 2007, after fresh spinach was implicated in an E. coli outbreak in 2006. The California Department of Food and Agriculture provides oversight by verifying through inspections that growers follow accepted food safety practices for lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens.

Sixty percent of consumers in the survey said they preferred the mandatory audits to other inspection services, such as those that private auditing companies conduct. Those third-party audits are a common practice in the industry.

When told that many retailers and restaurants only buy from members of the marketing agreement, 88% said this gave them more confidence in the category.

“While huge strides have been made by the California leafy greens industry in the last year to protect public health, it is very gratifying to see consumers reacting so positively to the unprecedented and unique LGMA programs and structure,” said Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the marketing agreement, in the release. “Our consumer is our most important audience and their opinions very much matter to this industry, which is why we commissioned the study.”

Most consumers — 62% of those surveyed, get their food safety information from the Internet, and 57% said they get their most credible information from growers.

When it comes to buying patterns, 55% of respondents said they purchase leafy greens once a week or more, 71% cited price and value in their purchasing decisions and 47% said quality and freshness were most important, according to the news release.