(June 7) With little debate, the California senate passed three food safety bills that had met with opposition from the state’s leafy greens industry.

If they should pass through the Assembly and be signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, they would establish tougher controls on the state’s leafy greens industry than the voluntary California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement. The senate approved the bills June 6.

Jim Bogart, president and general counsel for the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, said it was no surprise that Sen. Dean Florez’, D-Shafter, bills passed and emphasized the leafy greens industry would continue to focus on the marketing agreement.

“We’re moving that forward and we’re making it as effective as possible and all signs to this point are encouraging,” he said. “With or without Florez’ proposed regulations we’re moving ahead with efforts that will improve food safety.”

The agreement requires all leafy green handlers to only accept produce from growers who are following good agricultural practices that were devised by the industry and accepted by the marketing agreement’s executive board.

Agreement members represent nearly 100% of the state’s leafy green handlers, but Florez, who chairs the committee charged with emergency preparedness, continues to argue that the time for self-regulation has passed.

The bills give the state’s Department of Health Services the authority to recall or destroy produce, create an inspection program, mandate good agricultural practices for leafy green growers and require a traceback system from retailers to fields.