After several deadly E. coli outbreaks linked back to romaine lettuce, growers are imposing strict measures to ensure the safety of their products.
According to Food Safety News, the latest action came in a vote by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board of Directors on Friday. Previously, California and Arizona adopted new standards for growers that involved equipment cleaning practices, proactive steps for extreme weather, mandatory traceability measures and buffers between growing areas and feedlots. California's LGMA imposed larger buffers.
The vote will strengthen the California LGMA will mandatory food safety practices for farms in order to protect consumers and prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks. The new standards are in direct response to investigations conducted by the FDA and include updates such as specific directives for no longer allowing the use of untreated surface water for overhead irrigation of leafy greens prior to harvest, Food Safety News reports.
In addition, new requirements include additional safeguards that ensure farmers categorize the source of their water and to consider how and when water is applied to crops. Farmers will also have conduct water testing to ensure it is safe for its intended uses.
Farmers now must take responsibility for the food they produce, as the whole industry is aware of the impacts of an outbreak. By participating in the LGMA program, growers must adhere to mandatory government audits of their farms.
In the meantime, the LGMA will begin to ensure that everyone in the leafy greens community understands how to comply with the new requirements.