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Two honored with LGMA Golden Checkmark Award

by John Groh | October 18, 2011

Two leaders from the retail and foodservice buying communities were honored by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement during a meeting at the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit in Atlanta.

Bill Pool of Wegmans and Mike Spinazzola of Diversified Restaurant Systems, the produce buying arm for IPC and Subway restaurants, were announced as recipients of the LGMA's Golden Checkmark Award.

The Golden Checkmark is given to recognize individuals and organizations that support mandatory government inspection of food-safety practices in the produce industry.

"These two recipients are industry leaders in the field of food safety, each working to protect public health by maintaining the highest food safety standards for their companies,” Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the LGMA, said in a press release. “They are exceptional examples of representatives from firms who have committed to accept the LGMA's mandatory government audits as the only third-party inspection required of their leafy greens suppliers.”

Mr. Pool is manager of agriculture production and research for Rochester, NY-based Wegmans, a family-owned, 79-store chain that was founded in 1916 and is still owned and operated by members of the Wegman family.

Wegmans has built a reputation as one of the more successful regional grocery chains in the country with a strong commitment to food safety, sustainability and buying locally. The retailer is a long-time supporter of the LGMA and does not require any other kind of food-safety audit beyond the rigorous system of government inspections available through the LGMA. Wegman’s also utilizes USDA government audits for its locally sourced product.

As president and chief operating officer of Diversified Restaurant Systems, Mr. Spinazzola has been instrumental in steering Subway, one of the larger restaurant chains in the world, to a policy which favors USDA government audits as its preferred means for inspecting produce farming operations and accepts the LGMA's mandatory government audit as the only one required of its leafy green suppliers.

"Farmers of leafy greens are committed to protecting public health and we are very pleased that these two individuals and their companies have recognized the culture of food safety which has been established on leafy greens farms through the LGMA," Jamie Strachan, chairman of the LGMA and CEO of Salinas-based Growers Express LLC, which produces iceberg and leaf lettuces, in addition to other vegetable crops, added in the press release. "Accepting the LGMA audit is an essential step in eliminating costly duplicative inspections often required of produce farmers."

Past recipients of the LGMA's Golden Checkmark Award include California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Department of Food & Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura for their roles in establishing this first-of-its kind food safety program in 2007.

Tim York, president of Markon Cooperative Inc., was honored with the award during the 2009 PMA Fresh Summit.