Developing the Gold Standard in Culinary Lavender
As pioneering lavender farmers in the United States, the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association (SLFA) seeks to provide a gold standard for quality and food safety in the lavender industry. Culinary lavender has become an important herb in many high-end restaurants. This commitment to quality in culinary lavender requires adequate sampling and laboratory analysis. Food safety also involves two important functions, namely: (1) risk assessment and (2) preventive controls. Sequim Certified will provide guidance and require a commitment by certificants to quality and food safety.
Sequim's gold standard of quality for culinary lavender bud has been formulated in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Agriculture Laboratory and seeks to become recognized as the best in the world. Its grading system provides a series of maximum tolerance levels for a range of important characteristics that will help to ensure functionality, cleanliness and freedom from disease, noxious seeds or other deleterious factors. The cleaning process ensures that foreign material is removed from the lavender bud prior to its end use. The grading system is responsive to lavender farmers; end-use requirements for lavender and operates on a foundation of scientific support. The standards imposed on culinary lavender bud in order for it to meet a grade designation are based on its end use. This means that grading factors for lavender bud are relevant and responsive to customer needs.
It is not within the power of SLFA or any other association to establish standards which would make it legal or illegal to sell processed lavender as a food product. Standards are simply values or a measure of quality to which one subscribes. However, as an organization, we have been diligently working on developing and establishing standards that will assure the quality and integrity of our own products. The Sequim Lavender Farmers are passionate about lavender and work very well together in getting things done right. Our member farms have been in the forefront of the lavender industry in the United States for nearly 2 decades and have shared their knowledge with others in the US and around the world.
Over the past year we have been working with the USDA, WSDA and FDA in an attempt to assure our compliance with key elements of the new laws which are being implemented regarding the processing of food products.
As soon as we have all of the pieces in place, we will fully announce our program. However, for the benefit of the entire lavender industry, we have added a third day to the International Lavender Conference in April 2012 (http://www.sequimlavenderfarms.org/Conference.html). Representatives of the FDA/USDA will explain the requirements of the new law and how each processor can become compliant. For purposes of these new laws, a processor is any person who sells anything as a food item that is not in its natural state. In other words, once you dry and de-bud, you have processed.
There is no question that various regions of the country are unique in climate, soils, state regulations, etc., and many regional issues are best addressed at the local level where there's more passion, accountability and less bureaucracy. However, there is no need to duplicate the efforts of others if that work can be adapted to meet your needs. For that reason, we will be happy to share our research and standards with those who may be interested.