AUBURN, Ala.—The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will continue conducting Produce Safety Alliance training workshops in October and November.
A new produce safety rule focusing on setting the first-ever federal regulatory standards for production, harvest and handling of fruits and vegetables will subject growers to inspection by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
The Produce Safety Rule is part of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed in 2011. Alabama Extension is partnering with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to prepare farmers to meet the food safety standards set by the regulation.
Produce (fruits and nuts, fungi, root, leafy, sprout and vine-stalk vegetables) is the number one cause of foodborne illness in the United States. These outbreaks account for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses.
Dr. Jean Weese, an Alabama Extension food safety specialist, said this rule was enacted to provide safer produce for the consumer.
“We live in a consumer-driven world, and consumers are looking for safe food that is locally grown,” Weese, who is also an Auburn University professor of food science, said. “By taking this class and working to do everything they can to provide a safer product, the farmer can earn the confidence of the consumer.”
Produce Safety Alliance Training Workshops
October 10 — Chilton County
Alabama Power Building
2030 7th St. South
Clanton, Ala. 35045
Contact: Chilton County Extension Office
October 23 — Etowah County
Etowah County Extension Office
3200 A W. Meighan Boulevard
Gadsden, Ala. 35904
Contact: Amy Burgess
October 25 — Macon County
Macon County Extension Office
207 North Main Street
Tuskegee, Ala. 35904
Contact: Diane Hodges
November 7 — Cullman County
Cullman County Extension Office
402 Arnold Street NE
Cullman, Ala. 35055
Contact: Cullman County Extension Office
Who Does the Produce Safety Rule Affect?
Not every grower of fruits and vegetables will be covered by the rule. So how do you know if you will need this training?
- Grow only for personal or on-farm consumption?
- Sell less than $25,000 in produce annually?
- Grow and sell only these crops? Asparagus, beans, beets, cashews , cherries, chickpeas cocoa beans, coffee beans, collards, sweet corn, cranberries, dates, dill, figs, ginger, hazelnuts, horseradish, lentils, okra, peanuts, pecans, peppermint, potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes or water chestnuts?
- Grow only produce that will be further processed in a manner that will kill pathogens?
If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you are exempt from this training requirement.
If you answer ‘no’:
- Are your farm’s annual food sales less than $500,000?
- Do you sell more than 50 percent of your annual food sales to restaurants and retail food establishments (including direct-to-store sales) located in your state or within a 275 mile radius; and/or to consumers through direct marketing?
If you answered ‘yes’ to both 1 and 2, your farm may be eligible for a qualified exemption and you are not required to attend this training.
If you answered ‘no’:
Are the food sales from your farm:
- Over $500,000 annually? Your compliance date is Jan. 26, 2018.
- Less than $500,000 but over $250,000? Your compliance date is Jan. 28, 2019.
- Between $25,000 and $250,000? Your compliance date is Jan. 27, 2020.
Under this rule, fruit and vegetable growers will be subject to inspection by the FDA or the Alabama Department of Agriculture. Therefore, farmers must complete a one-day produce safety training course.
The course will cover:
- Worker health, hygiene and training
- Agricultural water for production and post-harvest use
- Biological soil amendments
- Domesticated and wild animals
- Equipment, tool buildings and sanitation
“This course teaches farmers how to prepare for inspections,” Weese said. “Preparations include training employees, minimizing wildlife damage and field contamination, water treatments and record keeping to prove they are in compliance with the new regulation.”
Workshop coordinators will provide necessary documents to participants on flash drives, as well as in paper form. In addition, spreadsheets for planning are being provided for logs and development tracking. These personnel also offer an on-farm review prior to compliance inspections.
Weese said interested growers can set up additional workshops in their area by contacting their county Extension office.
Photo in story leonori/shutterstock.com.
Featured image by Arina P Habich/shutterstock.com.