Concerned about the government shutdown? Coachella Valley growers are keeping your food safe.

Janell Percy, Special to The Desert SunPublished 12:18 p.m. PT Jan. 18, 2019

As the federal government shutdown raises new concerns with each passing day, one aspect not affected is the safety of fruits and vegetables grown in the Coachella Valley.

Food safety is the number one priority for farms in the desert. Besides being good for business, providing a dependable and healthy source of food is part of our moral obligation as growers. Protecting the integrity of the food supply is a carefully coordinated effort with multiple checks and balances as produce travels from farm to table.

Produce farmers in the Coachella Valley are mandated by federal law and also voluntarily abide by industry and private food safety certification programs. One such voluntary program is the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA). In 2007, California leafy green growers created a unique and rigorous science-based food safety system that protects public health by reducing potential sources of contamination and establishes a culture of food safety on the farm. 

Though a voluntary program, members must achieve 100 percent compliance with the LGMA food safety practices.

In addition to adhering to the mandatory Produce Safety Rule under the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act, farmers are also mandated by their buyers for additional certification. 

Many large-scale customers, such as Walmart, Costco and grocery store chains, impose their own additional standards that farms must meet. 

Whichever certification is required, the farmer will jump through hoops to ensure their food is safe. It begins before anything is planted in the field. Food safety training is conducted for all employees involved in growing, harvesting, and cooling/shipping. Food safety manuals are adhered to, Good Agricultural Practices are followed, and all details are documented along the way. In addition to the routine third-party audits on the farm, farmers will self-audit to make sure all bases are covered.

Food safety is priority number one on the farm and everyone knows it. 

The fruits and vegetables Coachella Valley farmers grow for you are the same ones we serve our own families. You can feel confident these foods are safe to eat with your loved ones.

The federal government shutdown has nothing to do with food safety on the farm. We continue to do our business as usual because it is the right thing to do.

Visit GrowingCoachellaValley.org for more information about these fruit and vegetable safety practices.