This editorial was originally published September 12 on the LGMA’s blog.
The job of implementing new food-safety legislation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) isn’t getting any easier for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pressure is mounting from some small farmers, foreign producers and consumer activist groups, who each have their own take on how the law should – or should not be – finalized.
Meanwhile, the issue of funding the cost of this sweeping legislation has still not been settled. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the challenge of making FSMA a reality is growing more and more complex.
Over the past several years, staff members from FDA have visited California to see and learn more about the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) and how this program is protecting public health for at least one segment of the U.S. produce industry.
The LGMA’s message to FDA is clear – we want strong food-safety laws. In fact, through the LGMA, a system of government oversight to ensure the safety of the majority of the nation’s leafy greens has been in place for more than six years. The program created by the California leafy greens industry in 2007 is based on science, includes mandatory government audits to verify that rigorous food-safety practices are being followed on leafy greens farms, and that there are real consequences for those who do not comply.
While others in the produce industry may be reluctant to embrace proposed food-safety rules, leafy greens farmers fully understand that they grow a product that is consumed in large quantities by people at home and in restaurants and it is frequently eaten raw. Leafy greens absolutely must be safe. The programs now in place in both California and Arizona not only meet the proposed requirements of FSMA, but they exceed the requirements of this new law.
The LGMA is proposing that FDA recognize our food-safety model and that, once FSMA is finalized, LGMA-certified leafy greens handlers be considered compliant with the new law.
These LGMA programs truly are a partnership between government and farming communities, with funding provided by industry and government serving to ensure compliance. By recognizing that the LGMA provides verification that handlers and growers are compliant with FSMA – and then some – FDA can be assured that more than 90 percent of the leafy greens produced in the U.S. are aligned with federal food-safety laws. With leafy greens taken care of, FDA can focus its attention on the other complexities of enacting this new law.© Food Safety News