usda-logo_for_webWe don’t need yet another seal when it comes to food safety – we need real change in the production process that creates a safe food system, (especially when it comes to contamination-causing manure!)  not another seal to trick consumers. The so-called Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement doesn’t guarantee safer food for consumers. Worse, it could actually harm small and medium size vegetable growers.

The proposed marketing agreement would allow corporate leafy green handlers to attach a USDA-backed “food safety seal” to lettuce, spinach, cabbage and other vegetables while prohibiting organic and local farmers at farmers markets, CSAs and roadside stands, and those selling directly to retailers, from using the same seal.

The California Certified Organic Farmers (COOF) and The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy group, are just two organizations that have expressed concerns about the agreement’s transparency and validity.

Clearly, consumers who see a USDA-seal on some veggies and not another’s will assume the first is safer, when in fact, most likely the very opposite is true!  In fact, in an ironic twist, one of the signatories to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Industry, Ippolito International, recalled 1,715 cartons of spinach due to salmonella contamination just the other day.

“This proposed food safety agreement will do nothing to tackle the root cause of the food safety problem, which is, in most cases, manure from confined animal feeding operations that is tainted with disease causing pathogenic bacteria,” said Will Fantle, of the Wisconsin-based farm policy group, The Cornucopia Institute.

I’m passionate about poor animal conditions and its impact on food quality and safety. Clearly, the focus should be on the cause of most food contamination outbreaks: improper handling of mountains of manure containing pathogenic E. coli and salmonella that are generated on livestock factory farms that contaminate our surface water, groundwater and farm fields.

Growers Outraged

“I am concerned that organic, and small and medium sized local growers like myself, will become marketplace ‘second-class citizens’ in the eyes of some consumers, by implying that my produce is less safe – when the very opposite is likely to be true,” said Tom Willey, a certified organic vegetable grower from Madera, CA.

Growers and consumers are being encouraged to show up at one of a series of hearing sessions in September and October across the country – the USDA isn’t accepting comments in writing. Read the entire Leafy Greens Marketing Proposal for yourself, and stay tuned to OA.com for updates.