CU comments on the National Leafy Greens Vegetable Marketing Agreement

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Comments of Consumers Union on Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Proposed National
Agreement Regulating Leafy Green Vegetables; Recommended Decision and Opportunity to File
Written Exceptions to Proposed Marketing Agreement No. 970
Docket No. AO-FV-09-0138; AMS-FV-09-0029; FV09-970-1
Prepared by
Michael Hansen, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist

July 28, 2011
Consumers Union (CU) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Proposed National Agreement Regulating Leafy Green Vegetables, under the Agricultural Agreement Marketing Act of 1937, which will require industry participants to adhere to Good Agricultural, Handling, and Manufacturing Practices.
We applaud the industry’s concern with improving its safety practices, which led to this proposal for a National Leafy Green Vegetables Marketing Agreement (NLGVMA). The broad consumption of leafy greens is essential to the health of consumers, both to insure proper nutrition and to help fight the current epidemic of obesity in the United States. However, we oppose this proposal, as we opposed establishment of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement four years ago, as the wrong way to go about solving food safety problems.
While the proposed NLGVMA has been improved by the input from the various public hearings, we still feel that the NLGVMA runs afoul of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (AMAA), and is primarily designed for marketing an image of food safety in order to restore consumer confidence in leafy green vegetables in the aftermath of the 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach and subsequent outbreaks. It is seriously flawed because the standards it will embody will not apply to the entire industry, only to members of the NLGVMA, and because the standards will be ultimately decided on by the industry itself, making it industry self-regulation. Most importantly, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been mandated to develop on-farm and processing food safety regulations under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, this program will at best duplicate, and at worst could contradict, FDA’s more broadly applicable, openly developed, and mandatory standards. We therefore urge that the NLGVMA not be established.
For the entire comments, click here (PDF format).