The United Fresh Produce Association and Produce Marketing Association have commended the collective efforts of the California-based leafy greens industry to bring the months-long effort of improving their auditable ag water standards to an LGMA Board vote and adopting new, risk-based metrics.

The organizations continued by saying they support the recent adoption by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement to characterize, treat, and monitor all forms of surface water that will be used for overhead irrigation of leafy greens within 21 days of harvest.

“This effort represents a fundamental shift to better reflect well established scientific knowledge on how we should think about water quality and risk,” said Dr. Jennifer McEntire, United Fresh’s Vice President of Food Safety & Technology. “We are no longer working on the assumption that water is safe based on a periodic, by the calendar, water test result; instead the industry assumes that surface water may present a risk to leafy greens and is proactively treating it during the period closest to harvest.”

The Romaine Task Force, co-chaired by United Fresh and PMA, has participated in the development of the new water metrics, and will now evaluate this risk-based approach from the perspective of the leafy greens supply chain.

“This is a paradigm shift in ag water management,” said Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA Chief Science Officer. “The key now is to undertake the education and training needed to implement the new metrics and most importantly, to begin learning about the effectiveness of the water metrics and continually improving them as the industry gathers data and distils the performance information.”

In addition to ag water, the Romaine Task Force also is focused on improving traceability through the supply chain, through retail and foodservice, developing a robust approach to root cause analysis, and improving the investigative process.