Editor's Note: Responding (perhaps pre-emptively) to concerns about the potential effect of the U.S. federal government shutdown on leafy greens safety, on Oct. 2 Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA), posted the following statement on LGMA's website:
In light of the current environment where many federal government operations are shut down due to fiscal constraints, we want to ensure our customers and consumers that government food safety audits on leafy greens farms continue uninterrupted. It is important to understand that LGMA auditors are not direct employees of the federal government, rather the certification and licensing of auditors is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, while they operate with oversight from the state department of agriculture in California. The audit program is fully funded by the leafy greens community through mandatory government assessments and is not reliant on tax dollars. (See LGMA's white paper, "The Cost of Government Audits," for more information.)
The LGMA believes this public-private partnership is the best model for food safety because it is a system in which industry and government work together to ensure safe food. The leafy greens industry, for its part, works with scientists and food safety experts in a transparent process to develop science-based food safety standards, or metrics. The government then works independently to ensure these practices are being followed on farms.
The program requires handlers to be in compliance with 100 percent of the required standards. The handlers must correct any citations issued or face decertification from the program, which translates into loss of business. The end result is a system that drives continuous improvement with real penalties for non-compliance. All of this is provided at a cost of about 1 cent per box for leafy greens handlers.
As federal government agencies continue to struggle with how they will fund the Food Safety Modernization Act in light of the current fiscal crisis, consumers continue to enjoy leafy greens grown under a system of mandatory government inspection. And the LGMA will continue to operate through the shut-down as it has since 2007.