The recent egg recall has made it clear that without proactive food safety measures, there will be recalls, the industry will get a bad “PR rap,” and the government will intercept — supported by public opinion. But what happens when suppliers are conscientious and create standards of integrity and excellence on their own?
The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement is an example of what can be done proactively. More than 100 handlers, representing nearly 99% of California-grown leafy greens, have agreed to the mandatory audit program that certifies members are implementing rigorous food safety measures.
What do these producers "get" in return? Respect and the recognition that food safety is important to these growers, both of which are reassuring to consumers, federal officials, special interest groups, supermarkets and shippers.
A marketing ploy? There are definitely public relations implications, as recent news reports are providing positive recognition of LGMA and even referencing this Agreement as an example of what can be done. But the established outreach to farmers, the educational programs, the mandatory audits by certified government inspectors at least four times per year, and a compliance-citation-decertification process, provide parameters in which to operate and make this document more than a simple service mark program.
Will this guarantee there will never be a recall of leafy greens? No, but it does reduce the likelihood. Plus, the positive position in which these suppliers have placed themselves builds trust. So, if and when a recall does occur, these providers will already have established credibility and a reputation for caring about the quality of food they provide to consumers.
That image is much better than what we are currently witnessing in the media’s coverage of the egg industry.