The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has announced the appointment of a new subcommittee that will focus on how land adjacent to leafy greens farms may be contributing to foodborne illness outbreaks associated with romaine lettuce. LGMA’s special subcommittee was formed in direct response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s recent report regarding three romaine lettuce Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreaks that occurred in 2019. 

The Adjacent Lands Subcommittee will review current LGMA standards related to grazing lands and adjacent properties, gather all relevant research done by the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) or other entities and consult with stakeholders for additional input. The subcommittee plans to look at a number of factors including:

  • distance; slope and other physical properties
  • the impact of weather
  • potential barriers such as berms, diversion ditches or vegetative strips
  • ‘good neighbor’ policies as they relate to properties located near leafy greens farming operations

The subcommittee is comprised of industry experts from LGMA member companies led by Sharan Lanini, Pacific International Marketing, who serves as the Chair of LGMA’s Technical Committee. The group will work closely with university and government researchers to meticulously examine past and current studies from CPS and other relevant scientific research. The subcommittee also plans to engage with landowners of properties located near leafy greens farms including cattle and other crops like wine grapes.

Current requirements under the LGMA call for assessments of environmental conditions in and around leafy greens fields. But it’s clear more can be done to keep pathogens out of farms.

LGMA tells leafy greens farmers that they are committed to doing everything possible to make sure produce products are safe. If they knew what additional precautions could keep pathogens out of the fields, they would immediately make changes to their food safety program.

As with all areas of the LGMA’s required food safety practices, the Adjacent Lands Subcommittee will be making recommendations as part of an open, collaborative process now underway for improving the safety of leafy greens. This process is being facilitated by Western Growers and is currently considering new standards for water used to grow leafy greens and for soil amendments and other crop inputs.

Leafy greens farmers work hard every day to implement the best-known food safety practices. Ultimately, the LGMA is the entity charged with updating and improving these standards to better protect consumers. The input provided by the FDA report and the work being done by LGMA's subcommittees, researchers, and other stakeholders is critical to prevent future outbreaks.