Update: The lettuce recall described in this article was expanded to include product sold at Canadian Burger King and Pizza Hut locations. First it was just plain old lettuce, then it was California-grown lettuce, and now the latest from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is that was lettuce from a grower who has signed onto the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement. In explaining how that lettuce contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 came across the border from the U.S., CFIA now points to how involvement in the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) is a quick ticket across the international border for California-grown lettuce. The idea is simple. Since the 115 California leafy green producers submit to a mandatory food safety program, they can check “Box 22” on their Confirmation of Sale’s (COS) document and enter Canada almost without slowing down.

Amazing Coachella
And, the LGMA agreement may be the most stringent food safety program for leafy green producers on the planet. It includes mandatory government audits for lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens that follow a “best practices” model to reduce risk. It focuses on water, soil and other environmental conditions along with farm worker hygiene and harvest controls. Still, the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, with at least 26 illnesses in three provinces, marks the second time in two years that California-grown lettuce served in Canadian restaurants has been responsible for a foodborne illness outbreak. Last year’s outbreak involved two restaurants in Canada’s New Brunswick and one in Orange County, California. Genetic fingerprinting connected Amazing Coachella Inc., a Coachella, CA-based producer, to the illnesses in both countries. This year’s outbreak involves KFC and Taco Bell outlets, restaurants of the Yum! Brands chain that receive fresh lettuce in the middle of winter from FreshPoint, a distributor in Toronto. CFIA has yet to name the actual grower, a subject that is giving the tight leafy green community in California something talk about. “We’ve been reaching out some,” says April Ward, LGMA’s communications director who is based in Sacramento. Her members are talking about it, but no one has coughed up the name of the responsible grower – yet. LGMA, in a statement issued on Chairman Ryan Talley’s blog, promises to fully cooperate with all those investigating the latest incident. “Consumers should know that if there is an outbreak determined to be associated with California leafy greens, the LGMA is committed to working with health officials to assist in determining the cause,” he said. “Traceback and recall capabilities that are a mandatory part of our program can be initiated and any product with the potential to be associated with the outbreak is removed from market channels to protect consumers.” “Information about any implicated farms is made available to authorities, and re-inspections can be done,” he continued. “If it is determined that an outbreak is the result of any on-farm practice, the food safety measures included in the LGMA program will be examined and, if necessary, changed.” Talley said when LGMA hears about an possible outbreak involving one of its members, “We jump in to learn more.” While California lettuce growers are aware of the Canadian outbreak involving their product, they aren’t too into speculating about who is involved. Tom Lathos, chief operating officer at Sun Coast Farms, said he’d sooner end his day at the beach, doing some January surfing. Letting a pathogen slip through does not mean a producer loses its LGMA status. Under the program, a producer can be decertified or ordered to take corrective action. But Amazing Coachella Inc. remains in good standing as an LGMA member. The LGMA program includes roles for both private sector auditors and California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors. It was created in response to the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with spinach grown in California’s Salinas Valley, often called the “America’s Salad Bowl.”  In that outbreak, 205 were sickened and 5 died. Talley says the LGMA program meets and/or exceeds the requirements of the new Produce Safety Rule, recently published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the two-year-old Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). All LGMA members use the organization’s service mark on bills of lading to assure customers that its products were produced under the best food safety practices available today. Growers who today can use that service mark include: Agro Jal Farms Inc, Santa Maria Amazing Coachella Inc/DBA Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella Amigo Farms Inc, Yuma Andrew Smith Co, Spreckels Anthony Costa and Sons, Soledad Apio Inc, Guadalupe Babe Farms Inc, Santa Maria Badlands / El Don, Brawley Baloian Packing Co Inc, Fresno Beachside Produce LLC, Guadalupe Bengard Ranch Inc, Salinas Big E Produce, Lompoc Blanton Produce Co, Salinas Boggiatto Produce Inc, Salinas Bonipak Produce Co, Santa Maria Boskovich Farms, Oxnard C and E Farms Inc, Salinas Cal Cel Marketing Inc, Oxnard Channel Islands Farm, Inc, Oxnard Church Bros LLC, Salinas Classic Salads LLC, Salinas Coastal Fresh Farms, Westlake Village Coastline / Sunridge Farms Inc, Salinas Country Sweet Produce Inc, Bakersfield Creekside Organics Inc., Bakersfield Crystal Organic/Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of CA, Salinas Dan Andrews Farms, Bakersfield Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard Diamond Produce Co, Salinas Dole Fresh Vegetables, Salinas Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc-Cal, Salinas Durant Distributing, Santa Maria Dynasty Farms Inc, Salinas Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista EpicVeg, Lompoc Ernie Strahm & Sons, Inc – Holtville Faurot Ranch LLC, Watsonville Field Fresh Farms, Watsonville Fisher Ranch Corporation, Blythe Fratelli Farms, Hollister Fresh Choice Marketing Inc, Oxnard Fresh Express Inc, Salinas Fresh Kist, Nipomo Fresh Origins LLC, San Marcos Fresh Roots LLC, Salinas George Amaral Ranches Inc, Gonzales Gold Coast Packing Co, Santa Maria Greengate Fresh LLLP, Salinas Growers Express LLC, Salinas Ippolito International, Salinas Jayleaf LLC, Hollister Joe Heger Farms LLC, El Centro John S Tamagni and Sons, Inc, Spreckels Kawaguchi Farms, Arroyo Grande Keber Distributing, Thermal Kenter Canyon Farms, Sun Valley Lakeside Organic Gardens LLC, Watsonville Mann Packing Co Inc, Salinas Misionero Vegetables, Salinas Muranaka Farms, Moorpark Nava Enterprise Inc, Oxnard New Star Fresh Foods LLC | organicgirl, Salinas North Country Produce, Paso Robles Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville Pablo’s Produce, Oxnard Pacific Coast Produce, Santa Maria Pacific Fresh Produce Inc, Oxnard Pacific International Marketing, Salinas Pacific Marketing Co, Salinas Pacific Pride Marketing LLC, Oxnard Pajaro Valley Fresh Fruit And Veg Dist, Watsonville Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exch, Oceano Premium Valley Produce, Inc, Scottsdale Pure Pacific Organics, Salinas Purepak Inc / Pacific Ridge Farms LLC, Oxnard Ratto Bros Inc, Modesto Ready Pac Foods Inc, Duarte Real Fresh Farms Inc., Santa Paula River Ranch Fresh Food LLC, Salinas Royal Rose LLC / European Vegetable Specialties, Salinas Sabor Farms, Salinas Salad Savoy Corp, Salinas San Cristobal Distributing Inc, Oxnard San Miguel Produce, Oxnard Santa Barbara Farms Packing, Lompoc Scarborough Farms Inc, Oxnard Seaboard Produce/Variety Marketing, Oxnard Silva Farms, Gonzales Steinbeck Country Produce, Spreckels Strahm Farms Inc, Holtville Sun Coast Farms, Santa Maria Sun Terra Produce Traders Inc, Newport Beach Sunamerica Produce, Salinas Sunfresh USA Inc, Santa Paula Sunsation Farms Inc, Monterey Talley Farms Inc, Arroyo Grande Tanimura And Antle Fresh Foods, Inc, Salinas Taylor Farms, Salinas The Nunes Co Inc, Salinas The Salad Farm LLC, Salinas True Leaf Farms, Salinas Vessey And Company Inc, Holtville William Consalo and Sons, Bakersfield One of them likely shipped lettuce to Freshpoint.