Jennifer Dougherty, Audit Programs Coordinator
Ken Petersen, Chief, Audit Services Branch
Specialty Crops Inspection Division
In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law, which was the first major update to the Nation’s food safety regulations in decades. Under FSMA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was directed to implement regulations for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce. For the first time, producers of fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops would be covered by specific on-farm food safety regulations under the Produce Safety Rule.
The first phase of the Produce Safety Rule goes into effect on January 26, 2018, starting with large operations, followed by small businesses in January 26, 2019, and very small businesses in January 26, 2020. Although these dates may seem far off, ensuring that you are in compliance means starting to make adjustments now.
To help producers understand the regulatory requirements of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, FDA and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) partnered with Cornell University to create the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) with four objectives:
- Provide educational outreach assistance to fresh produce growers and packers to increase their understanding of on-farm and packinghouse Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), on-farm environmental coordinated management (co-management), and other preventive controls and the critical role they play in public health;
- Develop standardized training to help the produce industry and regulatory agencies with the implementation of FDA's produce safety regulation;
- Develop standardized training to help the produce industry and regulatory agencies understand the environmental benefits of co-management, and to integrate food safety and environmental co-management principles while implementing FDA's produce safety regulation; and
- Provide stakeholders with easy access to up-to-date scientific and technical information related to FDA's produce safety regulation, on-farm and packinghouse produce safety, and related environmental co-management.
Over the last five years, 10 different PSA working committees helped develop a robust training curriculum specifically for the produce industry. Committee members represent a cross-section of the industry, including producers, packers/shippers, extension educators, academia, trade associations, and Federal and state government agencies. Each committee was tasked with a different aspect of on-farm food safety, from soil amendments to worker health and hygiene to water use. The final PSA training curriculum was approved by the FDA in July 2016.
PSA is implementing that training and is now one more resource for the produce industry, for information on produce safety, good agricultural practices, the industry’s role in improving public health, and helping producers develop a culture of food safety on the farm. To date, more than 25 ”Train-the-Trainer” and Grower Training sessions have been scheduled in 16 states over the next six months. Additional grower training sessions are being planned and scheduled as new trainers are brought online.
More information about the Produce Safety Alliance, including upcoming training events, educational resources, and collaborator contact information is available at http://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu. You can also join the PSA Listserve to stay current on the Alliance’s education and training activities.