Food safety compliance

Audits of produce operations in California found compliance with food safety protocols at an all-time high.

Western food safety compliance reaches record level

LGMA members were audited an average of five times in 2014 Over 99.5 percent were compliant with standards on first-inspection Audits inspect for pathogen pathways into food products

California Leafy Greens Agreement (LGMA) audits of member companies revealed a record-high level of compliance during food safety inspections over the past year.

The trends point to an ever-increasing level of compliance with standards established to prevent pathogens from entering produce. The audits trace everything from the farm to the processor.

Throughout the past year the California LGMA inspected each member an average of five times, looking for issues that could lead to food safety problems. Of the nearly 75,000 food safety checkpoints audited at California leafy greens farms, a total of 370 citations were issued.

This is the lowest number of citations issued in the history of the LGMA and represents less than half a percent of the total checkpoints verified during all LGMA audits for the year.

“It’s our strong belief that the combination of comprehensive training, frequent audits and the requirement that all citations be corrected is what’s behind the high rate of compliance and continued improvement LGMA members have experienced over the years,” said LGMA Chief Executive Officer Scott Horsfall.

The information is included in the LGMA’s 2014/15 annual report and is available online.

Horsfall explained the annual report provides an analysis of the mandatory government audits conducted through the LGMA program. The information is made public in an effort to demonstrate transparency of audit results for all LGMA members.

 “The number of citations issued has continually been falling since the inception of the LGMA in 2007.”

Closer look

A closer look at the numbers shows that:

  • Each LGMA member was audited an average of 5 times during the year.
  • Audits are conducted by certified government auditors and include both scheduled and unannounced visits. 
  • Each scheduled LGMA audit has 185 food safety check points.
  • Each unannounced audit has 38 checkpoints.
  • A total of 467 audits were conducted over the year.
  • The total number of checkpoints audited was 74,782.
  • 370 citations were issued.
  • 99.51 percent of checkpoints were verified as compliant with LGMA food safety metrics.
  • LGMA members averaged less than one citation per audit.

“To be clear, the LGMA system requires that all citations be corrected,” said Horsfall. “So, in the end, the compliance rate for every LGMA audit is actually 100 percent.”

Horsfall note that analyzing the numbers and kinds of citations issued provides a guide for the LGMA’s training program, LGMA Tech, because the information allows the LGMA to focus its training efforts to the areas where it’s most needed.

“We were pleased with the declining numbers of citations issued in the environmental assessment category,” said Horsfall, who explained that new metrics were introduced by the LGMA last year to address animal intrusion in leafy greens fields.

“This topic was the focus of enhanced worker training through our LGMA Tech program and we are seeing this pay off with a very low rate of citations in this category.”

Horsfall added that, while continuous improvement is a core value of the leafy greens industry, so is continual vigilance.

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“The trends seen in the LGMA’s latest analysis are positive and clearly demonstrate the industry's commitment. At the same time, growers and shippers recognize they must continue to do everything possible to mitigate risks and protect public health.”

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