The goal is indisputable: Make leafy greens safer from all growing regions.

The method for reaching that goal still has reasonable debate.

The latest step toward stronger food safety is a proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that recommends a new voluntary national leafy greens marketing agreement to include more regions and more grower board members than trade associations originally outlined.

Now comes a 90-day public comment period.

While we generally agree with most of the industry associations that such a program would make the overall industry safer, some of the criticism is reasonable.

Among their points:

  • a voluntary system sets up an atmosphere where food safety may be marketed, which is ultimately bad for produce consumption because it encourage consumers to leave the category;
  • the requirements may discriminate against smaller or regional producers;
  • it adds another assessment to growers, up to 5 cents per 24-pound carton; and
  • it’s unclear how the new Food Safety Modernization Act fits with this and what the Food and Drug Administration’s role may be, although the proposal does say it would apply FDA regulations and guidelines.

The USDA has taken reasonable steps to come up with the plan. It incorporated comments from listening sessions from growers, associations, consumers, retailers and more.

It changed its number of production regions and its proposed board makeup to include more diverse viewpoints.

This has been a responsive and responsible process from the government, and that shows great progress.

Did The Packer get it right? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.