CDFA To Hold Good Ag Neighbors Workshops

Workshop Designed for Produce Growers and Livestock Areas to Promote Food Safety

News Release

In order to facilitate dialogue between different sectors of California agriculture about cooperation to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is partnering with the University of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring the livestock and produce communities together for a series of workshops.

The workshops, titled Good Ag Neighbors, are designed for fruit and vegetable growers, livestock owners, and others interested in learning about how produce safety and livestock management practices can work jointly to promote food safety.

The workshops will be held in two California locations, with the first scheduled for June 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville. The second workshop is scheduled for June 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Robert J Cabral Ag Center in Stockton.

“Agriculture is complex,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This is particularly true in California, where diverse agricultural operations often exist side-by-side, with each of them required to comply with a myriad of regulations designed to protect the public, the environment, and the food supply.”

Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary
Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary

Diversity is extremely important to the fabric of California agriculture. Also important is open communication channels between diverse partners. This has become more apparent with the CDFA’s newly created Produce Safety Program, which is working on behalf of the U.S. FDA to enforce produce safety regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The workshops will address lessons learned from recent investigations of produce-related foodborne illness outbreaks, examine key research findings, and consider future research needs.

The workshops are being conducted by the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and will include presentations by researchers and industry representatives. The day-long agenda will focus in the morning on reviewing regulations, laws, and practices already in place to protect food and environmental safety, while the afternoon will be spent in various breakout groups examining how these practices can be leveraged.

Participants should come prepared to share their experiences as well as their produce safety questions.

The workshops are offered free of charge. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/good-ag-neighbors/.

Consumer Protection Is Top Priority for LGMA

New LGMA Irrigation Requirements Mean Heightened Food Safety Measures

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

As consumer protection continues to be a number one priority for producers, main pathogen routes are of the utmost importance for guaranteeing safety. The California Leafy Green Marketing Agency (LGMA) is a program that works to continually keep the lettuce industry safe and maintain confidence in food safety programs—but as pathogens begin to evolve, it takes a team effort to combat future threats.

Mike Villaneva, LGMA technical director, told California Ag Today, “It’s been a tough 18 months, and it’s the challenge with these outbreaks … we never really have a good answer about what happened and how it happened.”

In the leafy greens industry, water becomes a focal point in pathogen prevention. “We’ve got 12 years of testing water, and we’re pretty confident of water in the deep wells along the Central Coast, but down south is a different ballgame—that’s open surface water,” Villaneva said.

On April 19th, the LGMA board met and voted to strengthen mandatory food safety practices required on farms. One facet included prohibiting overhead irrigation 21 days prior to harvest unless the water is sanitized.

“They’re looking at some other potential testing and data that could lower that down to 14, but right now they’re sticking with the 21 overhead,” Villaneva said.

The California Leafy Green Marketing Agency continues to show their commitment to ensuring a safe, stable food supply through foodborne illness prevention. More information about the program can be found on their website at www.lgma.ca.gov.

Building a Relationship Between Consumers and Ag Industry

There Are Ways to Gain Trust Among Consumers

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Bridging the gap between consumers and their food has been an ongoing battle that research shows can only be won by trust. Charlie Arnot with the Center for Food Integrity has looked further into what it really takes to gain trust among consumers.

Arnot said that studies conducted alongside Iowa State University showed that there are three main drivers in creating a relationship with consumers: influencers, competency, and confidence in shared values. Further research revealed that of the three main variables, confidence in shared values proved to be the most important—but this can be a difficult goal to accomplish.

“Agriculture has a historical mantra of ‘We’re Feeding the World,’ but most consumers just don’t care, and it’s not a justification for more industrialized food production,” Arnot said.

This resistance towards industrial farming is largely due to food being so readily available to the public.

Arnot suggests taking the approach of addressing known consumer concerns such as food safety, nutrition, and treatment of animals, to name a few.

“Addressing those concerns is going to be the most effective strategy we can have in building trust in who we are and what we do in agriculture today,” he said.

Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Issues New Food Safety Guideline

New, More Stringent Food Safety Practices Adopted to Prevent Outbreaks

By April Ward, LGMA Communications Director

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board met April 19 and voted to strengthen mandatory food safety practices required on farms.

This means that 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 their water because it can be a carrier of pathogens. But the new requirements now include additional safeguards that ensure farmers 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; and 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 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. And, in fact, the actions taken by the LGMA Board have effectively changed the way 99 percent of the leafy greens in California are farmed.

The LGMA will begin immediately to make sure everyone in the leafy greens community understands how to comply with the new requirements. The updated LGMA Food Safety Practices document is available on our website here. Additional information on specific changes to the LGMA food safety practices will be provided in the coming weeks and dates for workshops and webinars for both leafy greens industry members and the buying trade will be scheduled soon.

The LGMA and its members have an obligation to produce safe leafy greens. We are very aware of the tragic impacts a foodborne illness can have on consumers, our customers, and our entire industry. We are all passionately committed to producing the safest leafy greens possible. The LGMA will continue to make changes to as needed to strengthen the food safety requirements for leafy greens.

For more on the new regulations, check out this YouTube video.

More Facts About the “Dirty Dozen” List

New So-called “Dirty Dozen” List is Baseless

News Release

To everyone that has read about the “Dirty Dozen” list and is now confused and conflicted about buying the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies, this blog is for you.  Keep in mind that the “Dirty Dozen” list is designed to make you worry and be fearful.  After all, fear is a very powerful motivator, and the list authors attempt to increase safety fears to motivate and influence consumers’ produce buying decisions.

So here are some facts about the “Dirty Dozen” list that underscore you can consume either conventional or organic produce with confidence.  Both are safe, and the right choice is to eat more every day.

  • Arbitrary Methodology: According to Dr. Carl Winter, toxicologist, University of California, Davis.: “This year’s EWG list is produced using the same arbitrary methodology the EWG has used in the past.  Most importantly, the EWG focuses upon the presence (or absence) of pesticide residues in its methodology and public statements rather than on the actual amounts of pesticides detected, which are extremely low.  To accurately assess consumer risks from pesticides, one needs to consider three major factors – 1) the amount of residue on the foods, 2) the amount of food consumed, and 3) the toxicity of the pesticides.  The methodology used by EWG ignores all three.”
  • Meet Organic Standard: Did you know that the vast majority of conventionally grown produce tested by United States Department of Agriculture could qualify to be labeled “organic,” specific to their residue levels? It’s true. The USDA allows organic produce to have residues that are “less than 5% of EPA tolerances” and the majority of residues found on conventionally grown produce are below this level.  This nicely illustrates how low residues are, if present at all.
  • You Can Eat A Lot of Kale:  If you are concerned about residues on kale, you would have to eat a lot more each day to see any health effects.  In fact, a man would have to eat 26,061 servings in a day.. Click here to continue reading and to like and share this blog post. 

Food Safety is Critically Important for Consumers

Safe Food Alliance’s Big Lab in Kingsburg Will Serve Ag Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Tom Jones, senior director of analytical services with the Safe Food Alliance, about the new state of the art food safety lab in Kingsburg.

“We have laboratories, not only here but also in Kerman, Winters, as well as Yuba City,” Jones said. “But this is a big lab; our main lab that will provide plenty of space for research and testing.”

food safety
Tom Jones Sr. Director of Analytic Services for Safe Food Alliance

“We were in a laboratory in downtown Fresno that … was less than  8,000 square feet. We’re now in more than 20,000 square feet, and it’s made a tremendous difference—a lot more space and capacity for us to do our work,” Jones explained.

There is adequate room for additional sample storage, more instrumentation as the business grows and more people doing more work.

“We also have room for additional incubation of samples, so in the microbiological testing, that’s a big issue,” Jones said. “It is a much easier place to work in.”

“The first piece of instrumentation actually installed in the new lab before we officially moved in was our GC Mass Spectrometer Time of Flight system, and it’s a powerful system to be able to analyze for unknown compounds,” Jones said. “If you have a problem … you can take that sample, run it through the GC Mass Spectrometer and start getting data right away. Even if you don’t know what you’re exactly analyzing for, you can actually start the process there, so that’s really exciting.”

“You need qualified people to run that machine So, that’s a big part of the testing world as well. And the end goal of all of this new technology is to keep consumers safe,” Jones continued. “Our mission is to see a safe food supply from farm to fork, and we’re really excited to have this facility because we can test to a wider range of food products, using a wider range of analysis. We are here to help support our agricultural community as well as the food processing community as we export to the world.”

(Additional Photo is of the Open House at the new lab in Kingsburg.)

Tom Stenzel Says Produce Safety Critical

California Ahead of the Curve on Food Safety

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, a lobbying group in Washington D.C., recently spoke with California Ag Today about new developments in food safety as well as some recent issues in regards to labor.

“Our industry’s been revolutionized in the commitment to food safety over the last ten years. Everybody from the ground up through the processing facilities … it’s our number one priority. The same time, the feds have these new rules and regulations that are coming out with some compliance states starting now in 2018, so we’re just trying to make sure that it is reasonable enforcement that the Feds understand as they’re looking at farms, looking at processing facilities, that we’re in this together. Ultimately, all of us just want to make sure that consumers have safe food,” Stenzel said.

Stenzel said many producers in California are already ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety.

“I mean, you look at the leafy greens industry on the Central Coast: They’ve been ready for a good while with very high produce safety standards,” he noted. “But … there’s some areas across the country where it’s going to be a little bit more challenging. But that’s OK, too, because everybody wants to raise their game. They want to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to deliver safe food.”

Stenzel noted that labor is a big issue, especially in California.

“The number one issue I’m hearing across the country from fruit and vegetable agriculture is the shortage of labor. Now for us, the solution – it’s going to be two parts. It’s got to be a new future guest worker program, and for that, we really thank U.S. Congressman and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte for raising the issue [and] pushing a bill. It’s not everything we want to see, but at least he’s raising his head on that issue,” Stenzel said. “However, we need to deal with the current workforce.”

“We also need to have a bigger commitment to get legal status for those who are already here. These are men and women who’ve been here for twenty years,” he explained. “This is their home where they have raised their families, they’ve got children who are U.S. citizens and they’re working in our fields. We can’t deport them. That doesn’t make sense as a country and certainly not as an agricultural industry.”

 

Farmers Appreciate Leafy Green Marketing Agreement

Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Raises Bar

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement took huge steps in the advancement of food safety.

Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California of the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, said, “In 2007, there had never been government inspectors on the farm on a routine basis related to food safety.”

Many other regulators such as the Department of Public Health would often check in on businesses. However, there had never been a routine food safety oversight program on the farm.

Farmers joined this agreement voluntarily. “All of these companies that have joined, and been in the program since 2007, they do so voluntarily, and they pay the freight,” Horsfall said. This raises the bar for food safety and provides value to the industry.

Farmers, who were wary at first, came back to Horsfall saying, “They sleep better at night knowing that they’ve got this program in place, that the auditors are going to be there.”

The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement continues to improve. Every year, the numbers are studied to see what areas have a continuing problem.

“We have used that to decide what to create in a training program. We hope that we’re helping the industry to better comply with these standards as we go along too, by offering the training,” Horsfall said.

For more information, visit the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement web page.

 

Maintaining Food Safety – LGMA Part 3

Understanding the Farming Operation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today met recently with Jon Kimble, and among other topics, he reported on food safety in the state of California. Kimble is the operations business development manager at Safe Food Alliance.

Jon Kimble, Safe Food Allicance

Safety is a big concern for those who work in the agricultural community. Kimble spoke on how it is important that farmers assess those on their property.

“If you see somebody getting out, and getting into your fields, certainly you want to talk to them and make sure they are not going to impact the safety of your products, because that is your financial future.”

Operations such as U-Pick, people out in the fields, or people part of an activity raise concern. Risks may be managed in terms of providing hand washing, communication, putting up signs, and making sure they understand that they can impact the safety of others when they’re out in the field.

“It really comes down to just practical due diligence, activities, recommendations that come right out of the good agriculture practices that has been developed over the past few decades,” Kimble said.

Kimble also spoke to California Ag Today about the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA). This puts standards and measures in place to protect the safety of the crops.

“That is a great example of voluntary activity rising up from within the industry to control risks and control hazards,” he said.

The industry has established the best practices, which have led to a world class food safety program through the LGMA.

“The first compliance dates are coming up in January, and I think a lot of growers do not realize how soon their compliance dates are hitting,” Kimble said.

It Is California Cantaloupe Week!

California Cantaloupe Week Begins in Fresno County

By Lauren Dutra, NAFB Summer Intern

 

Established by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for this week, Monday July 25 through Sunday, July 31,“California Cantaloupe Week,” recognizes Fresno County as the lead canteloupe-producing county in California, which currently produces 75% of all cantaloupes sold in the United States.

Steve Patricio, president and CEO of Westside Produce, a grower, packer and shipper in Firebaugh said, “The quality has been absolutely outstanding this year, with some of the highest sugar results we’ve seen in recent years.” Patricio has also observed great demand in the marketplace as well.  At this point, it’s time to eat those beautiful California cantaloupes,” he noted.

Tri Westside ProducePacked with nutrition, “Cantaloupes are one of the most outstanding things we can eat for our health,” Patricio affirmed. “That daily dose of cantaloupe can do wonders for a healthy lifestyle.”

The California Cantaloupe industry has been on the forefront of the food safety movement throughout the world, “You can be assured that every cantaloupe grown, packed and shipped from California meets the highest standard of food safety anywhere in the world,” Patricio stated.

The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board (CCAB) requires all California cantaloupe growers, packing operations, and cooling facilities undergo mandatory announced and unannounced government food safety audits. The audits are based on a set of food safety standards developed from 20 years of university research along with input from government, food safety and farming experts. CCAB food safety systems allow for science-based standards to be updated as new information or science becomes available.

You can review all of the safety checkpoints here.