Commodity specific food safety guidelines for the production and harvest of lettuce and leafy greens
The scope of this document pertains only to fresh and fresh-cut lettuce and leafy greens products. It does not include products commingled with non-produce ingredients (e.g. salad kits which may contain meat, cheese, and/or dressings). Examples of “lettuce/leafy greens” include iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, baby leaf lettuce (i.e., immature lettuce or leafy greens), escarole, endive, spring mix, cabbage (green, red and savoy), kale, arugula and chard and spinach. These crops are typically considered lettuce and leafy greens by FDA but may not be similarly defined by other state or federal regulatory bodies. This document is also limited to offering food safety guidance for crops grown under outdoor field growing practices and may not address food safety issues related to hydroponic and/or soil-less media production techniques for lettuce/leafy greens.
Lettuce/leafy greens may be harvested mechanically or by hand and are almost always consumed uncooked or raw. Because lettuce/leafy greens may be hand-harvested and hand-sorted for quality, there are numerous “touch points” early in the supply chain and a similar number of “touch points” later in the supply chain as the products are used in foodservice or retail operations. Each of these “touch points” represents a potential opportunity for cross-contamination. For purposes of this document, a “touch point” is any occasion when the food is handled by a worker or contacts an equipment food contact surface.
Lettuce/leafy greens present multiple opportunities to employ food safety risk management practices to enhance the safety of lettuce/leafy greens. In the production and harvest of lettuce and leafy greens as raw agricultural commodities, GAPs are commonly employed in order to produce the safest products possible. In a processing operation, the basic principles of cGMPs, HACCP, sanitation and documented operating procedures are commonly employed in order to produce the safest products possible. Lettuce/leafy greens are highly perishable and it is strongly recommended that they be distributed, stored and displayed under refrigeration.