Western Growers, the California-based trade association comprising fruit, nut and vegetable growers, has announced the initiation of new mandatory food safety procedures for spinach and leafy green produce, in the wake of the E. coli outbreak earlier this year.

The association said it would initiate a California Marketing Agreement and a Marketing Order that will establish mandatory Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) that strengthen food safety procedures in this area.

The Western Growers board will also initiate a federal marketing order to develop comprehensive and mandatory national spinach and leafy green food safety standards, Western Growers said in a statement.

The association believes that this will impose enhanced and mandatory food safety processes on all aspects of growing, packing, processing and shipping of spinach and leafy greens. Enforcement and process verification are to be overseen by state and federal government regulatory agencies.

Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, believes the introduction of these measures will give the public greater confidence in spinach. “Our industry is at a crossroads,” he said. “The consuming public, lawmakers, state and federal government agencies as well as our members want greater assurances that the healthy, fresh produce we provide is safe. The actions approved by our board of directors will help ensure that improved food safety standards are universally understood and adhered to.”