Leafy greens organization strengthens water safety requirements
Every box of leafy greens placed into commerce by a certified LGMA member will soon be produced under new, more stringent requirements that are designed to reduce risk when it comes to water used in growing leafy greens. The updates include specific directives, such as no longer allowing the use of untreated surface water for overhead irrigation of leafy greens prior to harvest.
The LGMA program has always required growers to test water because it can be a carrier of pathogens, but the new requirements now include additional safeguards that ensure farmers take the following steps:
- Categorize the source of the water
- Consider how and when water is applied to the crop
- Conduct testing to assure the water is safe for the intended use
- Sanitize water if necessary
- Verify that all of the above precautions have been taken
The new standards approved by the LGMA board are in direct response to investigations conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into last year’s E. coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce. Clues pointed to irrigation water from sources such as canals and reservoirs as a possible cause of the both the November outbreak and the one associated with romaine from Yuma, Arizona, last spring.
Government and the produce industry in general looked to the LGMA as the way to improve the safety of leafy greens. The leafy greens industry group, facilitated by Western Growers, has been working with industry members, growers and members of the academic community to fashion new and more stringent requirements for agricultural water use. In fact, actions taken by the LGMA board have effectively changed the way 99 percent of the leafy greens in California are farmed.
Farmer education and the implementation process of the new rules will begin immediately. Additional information on specific changes to the LGMA food safety practices will be provided in the coming weeks. Dates for workshops and webinars for both leafy greens industry members and the buying trade will be scheduled soon.