Last week, a group of Canadian food writers and bloggers, accompanied by staff of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA), toured two leafy greens fields and a processing facility in the Salinas area. The group was there as part of an innovative block grant program – a partnership between the LGMA and CDFA designed to raise awareness among Canada’s consumers and food industry about how the California leafy greens industry is protecting public health by building a culture of food safety on the farm.
The tour focused on the LGMA’s rigorous food safety practices, which are verified by government auditors, but the group seemed particularly impressed by the human aspects of what farmers are doing to protect public health. For example, as highlighted in this article from the Packer about the tour, the visiting writers were impressed to hear of how every worker is empowered to make sure all food safety practices are being followed – and to take action when they discover a risk. Grower Rodney Braga, of Braga Ranch, told of how a worker had spotted large flock of Canadian Geese in a field one night. The worker was commended by his bosses for bringing the issue to his company’s attention, even though it meant a large block of production had to be abandoned.
Rosie Schwartz, a Toronto dietician and writer, was quoted as saying how impressed she was “that an employee is considered a hero for stopping the harvest instead of covering it up.”
The media tour was an important component in the LGMA’s ongoing assessment of how a food safety program like this one impacts consumer and trade confidence in leafy greens.
Scott Horsfall is CEO of the Leafy Greens Product Handler Marketing Agreement