SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement has partnered with the Produce for Better Health Foundation and Dallas-based dietitian consultant Neva Cochran to educate consumers on the food safety steps growers take.
Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, president and CEO of PBH, announced the partnership April 24 at the PBH Consumer Connections conference.
She said the partnership will allow the LGMA and Cochran to inform PBH influencers and dietitians about food safety issues, which will be passed on to consumers.
“When there is a food safety issue, how can we all work together to make sure that a consistent message is out there, but also is providing the right context to consumers?” Reinhardt Kapsak said.
The partnership can potentially help maintain consumer trust and make sure consumption doesn’t lag after outbreaks long since ended.
Dan Sutton, chairman of the California LGMA and general manager of the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, Oceano, Calif., spoke with conference attendees about the food safety mission of the group. He said the LGMA covers 99% of the leafy greens from California.
“We are a food safety program and one of the most rigorous and detailed food safety programs in the United States,” he said.
Environmental factors, soil, water and employee hygiene, are checked. Sutton said members go through five or six government audits each year.
The LGMA recently updated water testing/treatment rules in response to E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens last year.
“That’s important because we’ve basically changed the way leafy greens are going to be farmed in California, with safety of our products in mind,” Sutton said.
The focus is on sanitizing “open source” water, such as an irrigation canal or irrigation pond, which has been the focus of two recent E. coli outbreaks traced to leafy greens.
“I have confidence in what we do as a leafy greens community, and I’m looking forward to talking with many of you further, to try to gain your confidence to the processes that LGMA has established and is continuing to do,” Sutton said.
Scott Horsfall, CEO of of the LGMA, said the partnership will help build links with the PBH community of registered dietitians and influencers.
“We know that in an ongoing basis, they’re the conduit to their customers — so we want to make sure that we are providing the information that they need and they want,” he said. “Not just during (a) crisis, but certainly during an outbreak situation, we want to put (information) into context for them as well.”
Neva Cochran, Dallas-based nutrition communications consultant and author of the blog Eating Beyond the Headlines, said the partnership will help educate dietitians about the LGMA and food safety measures in place.
“We know that there are leafy green outbreaks and these are very rare,” she said.
“And the media is very good at getting the word out about when there is the crisis and then when you shouldn’t eat it,” she said. “But they seem to be very, very slow or not at all in getting out the message that it’s all clear and we can eat it again.”
She said her partnership with LGMA and PBH will help provide resources for dietitians to help them appreciate all the safety measures that go into producing leafy greens.
“We want to create more awareness among (dietitians) so they know (LGMA) is a go-to resource, not only like when a crisis happens, but just in normal circumstances.”
Marilyn Dolan, consultant for the LGMA, said the group is going to develop a new website and social media channels that will help share on information leafy greens.