Arizona LGMA updates food safety practices
The Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (AZ LGMA) said it will enter its upcoming growing season with improved food safety practices in light of the E. coli outbreak earlier this year associated with romaine. The updated food safety metrics include: more rigorous risk assessments to address intense weather conditions; additional measures for the production of leafy greens near concentrated animal feeding operations; more prescriptive requirements for the cleaning and sanitizing of harvest equipment; and stronger traceback requirements. The group said thee changes are required of all AZ LGMA members and will be verified during the upcoming season beginning in November 2018.
The updated metrics align with recommendations of the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force and follow two months of examination of all the farm conditions and practices. Members of the task force included growers from Arizona and California, federal and state governmental agencies, scientists, researchers, consumer advocates and the buyer community. Specific changes to the AZ LGMA food safety practices include:
Metrics will now require an additional environmental assessment following weather events like flooding, frost or high winds. Evidence reviewed by the Task Force suggests that a combination of unusual weather events and plant diseases may have been a contributing factor to pathogens, like E.coli, entering the leaves.
Added prescriptive measures for the frequency and timing of cleaning and sanitizing of harvest equipment have been included in these updates and allows for further verification of these practices.
Risk management related to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
Updated and future metrics will triple the buffer zones between CAFOs and leafy greens crops, from the current standard 400 feet to 1,200 feet. More rigorous risk assessments will be in place whenever leafy greens are grown close to CAFOs. CAFOs are animal feeding operations in small concentrated areas – common among livestock and other animal feeding operations on farms and ranches.
Metrics language will require the identification of all lot data from product that is placed into commerce. In practice, most firms do collect this data, but this change would remove any potential for not collecting data that would assist in traceback investigations or recalls.
“Arizona farms take these food safety practices very seriously and are committed to doing everything possible to prevent future outbreaks,” said Arizona LGMA Food Safety Committee Administrator Teressa Lopez. “We appreciate the tireless work of the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force, and are confident that these changes will strengthen our food safety practices in the upcoming growing season.”