Apr 27, 2011 (CIDRAP News) The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday asked for public comments on a proposed voluntary measure designed to help all parts of the leafy greens industry meet food quality and safety requirements.
The USDA said in a press release that the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA) was first proposed in June 2009 by a group of 14 organizations that represent producers and handlers. The marketing agreement would spell out best practices for preventing bacterial contamination of leafy greens and establish an audit-based verification program.
The USDA said that it held seven public hearings on the initial proposal, which now includes adjustments based on comments and concerns that surfaced during the hearings. In the latest version the USDA proposed eight regional zones that would be represented by a 26-member board made up of handlers, farmers, an importer, a retailer, a food-service representative, and a member of the public.
Kathleen Merrigan, USDA deputy secretary, said in the statement that the goal of the NLGMA is to allow stakeholders to work together to develop a practical program. "We are striving to create a voluntary program so that all types of farmers and handlers can more effectively comply with quality and food safety requirements," she said.
The USDA would also appoint a technical review board to help the board develop Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices, and Good Manufacturing Practices.
The USDA said the comment period for the proposal, which appears on the USDA's Web site, is open for 90 days, and comments are due by Jul 28. The USDA said a Federal Register notice will be published Apr 29 and will include instructions for submitting comments.
Apr 26 USDA press release
USDA NLGMA proposal
NLGMA Web page
Jul 21, 2010, CIDRAP News story "FDA gets bumper crop of comments on produce safety"