Educational visit to California farms
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) recently invited us to the Monterey region, fertile soil where many leafy vegetables imported to Canada come from. So it is in sunny California that we take a little foray into what’s on our plate. It was a rather informative trip, where producers shared with us the importance of truly understanding what we eat.
Did you know?
· The leafy greens category includes various types of lettuce (iceberg, romaine, etc.), arugula, bok choy, and spinach.
· In total, 86% of leafy greens exported from California are destined for Canada.
· For safety purposes, the Canadian government requires that all American leafy greens entering the country be LGMA-certified.
A bit of history: food crisis and the birth of the LGMA
Since leafy greens are often eaten raw, so as to conserve their nutritional properties, and due to the fact that they are grown close to the ground, there are many factors that can lead to contamination. For example, the presence of animals in the fields, or the use of polluted water. This is when vigilance is required.
In 2006, there was an E. coli contamination in spinach stemming from the United States. It led to four deaths and 205 poisonings. Immediately, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned Canadians to avoid eating the contaminated vegetable.
Following the events, in 2007, the American government and leafy greens producers got together to develop new security measures. And the LGMA was born, a public organization whose mission is to protect the public health by regulating and controlling the growers of leafy greens.
“Awareness of food safety has allowed us to change the culture among producers. They are proud of their training, and it therefore becomes their badge of honour,” says Scott Horsfall, CEO of California LGMA.
He also states that members of the program, submitting themselves to rules and audits by the organization, join on a voluntary basis. (The LGMA also oversees 99% of lettuce production in California.) But why impose oneself to such control? “After 2006, the industry realized that it had to react,” says Horsfall. The industry had to protect itself, and protect its consumers, from a new crisis, with the spinach industry never having truly recovered. Later on, many buyers actually began to require LGMA certification among its producers.
For more on our journey, click here!
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