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Coalition launches food safety program for indoor-grown leafy greens

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Coalition launches food safety program for indoor-grown leafy greens

The CEA (controlled environment agriculture) Food Safety Coalition has announced the first-ever food safety certification program specifically for CEA-grown leafy greens. 

Now members of the  industry coalition can choose to be assessed for the CEA Leafy Greens Module, and upon successful completion will be allowed to use the CEA food-safe seal on certified product packaging.  The CEA Leafy Greens Module enables CEA growers to distinguish produce grown indoors while ensuring the highest standard of quality and compliance is achieved.

“The CEA industry is rapidly expanding and predicted to support more than 10 percent of U.S. vegetable and herb production by 2025,” said Rebecca Anderson, technical key account manager for GLOBALG.A.P. North America.

“The CEA FSC Leafy Green Module will set a new industry standard for CEA-grown produce while driving consumer awareness of the innovations happening in indoor agriculture today.”

The CEA Food Safety Coalition consists of leaders in the controlled environment agriculture industry, according to coalition officials. Founded in 2019 to distinguish CEA-produced greens from field-grown greens that have been at the center of many recalls, the coalition worked to educate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration about the limited risk of contamination for indoor produced leafy greens. That action helped ensure that CEA-produced leafy greens remained on store shelves during later lettuce recalls, coalition leaders say.

“Current food safety standards were written for the field, and many do not address the unique attributes of controlled, indoor environments,” said Marni Karlin, executive director of the Coalition.

“This new certification process and the accompanying on-pack seal helps to unify CEA growers while also differentiating them from traditional field agriculture. It also better informs consumers and provides a quick-glance image to know when produce has been grown safely indoors, with a high standard of quality and without some of the hazards of the field, such as potential contamination from animal byproducts.”

The CEA Leafy Greens Module is measured against science-based criteria and is an add-on to existing compliance with an underlying Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized food safety standards.

Controlled environment agriculture takes a technology-based approach to produce optimal growing conditions inside controlled environments such as greenhouses and indoor vertical farms. Plants are typically grown year-round using hydroponic, aeroponic or aquaponic methods, without the need for pesticides. The crops are unaffected by climate or weather and safe from animal and bird intrusions. 

The certification program is available to all CEA FSC members and must be completed annually. CEA growers can be assessed for multiple sites in four key areas:

  • Hazard analysis — use of water, nutrients, growing media, seeds, inputs, site control and other relevant factors;
  • Water — all contact with the plant and with food contact surfaces. The use of recirculating water will require a continuing hazard analysis. Will also require zone-based environmental monitoring based on company-specific risk assessments;
  • Site control, infrastructure and system design — all food contact surfaces and adjacent food contact surfaces, including plant containers. Will also assess associated farm physical hazards, including lighting, robotics, sensors, equipment and utensils, etc.
  • Pesticide use and testing — the use of pesticides or herbicides during the plant life cycle.

More about the certification and auditing process can be found here.

About the CEA Food Safety Coalition
The CEA Food Safety Coalition was founded in 2019 to represent the interests of CEA leafy greens growers in developing credible and appropriate food safety standards while educating consumers and regulators alike on the value of controlled environment agriculture. The CEA Food Safety Coalition is headquartered in Washington D.C.and represents companies with facilities and distribution in more than 21 states. More information can be found on their website.

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