A Braga Fresh employee collects a water sample to test it for pathogens as required by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. ( Courtesy California LGMA )

As Canada prepared tighter import rules for California leafy greens, the food safety standards group that oversees those crops emphasized steps it’s taken to protect the crops.

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement updated water safety standards in 2019 and are now standard practice. The standards, according to a news release from the organization, go “well beyond what’s currently in place under federal Produce Safety Rule regulations” for other produce, according to the release.

“Media reports often incorrectly state that leafy greens farmers are not required to test their water,” California LGMA CEO Scott Horsfall said in a news release. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The LGMA released data concerning testing of water for leafy greens in California fields, showing that of 6,348 water checkpoints, just 64 were out of compliance, according to the release. Of those citations, 25 were minor and were corrected during the audit. The remaining 39 required a Corrective Action Plan, according to the release.

Since then, all non-compliant checkpoints have been corrected, according to the release.

“Water is such an important part of food safety on lettuce farms,” says Horsfall.  “LGMA member companies are working hard every day to implement these safe farming methods to prevent illnesses.”

The 2019 changes to LGMA standards include the treatment of water from an open source, such as a canal, reservoir or river, if it is used as overhead irrigation water within 21 days of harvest.

Water throughout irrigation systems must be tested as well.

California LGMA member Braga Fresh released a YouTube video on the testing program.

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